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Chinese wedding cups

I have a pair of wine stem cups with hidden designs. Both are about 9cm tall with a cup brim of 9cm in diameter. Both are white and appear to be old. Both have a pair of "dragon and phoenix relief decoration" against a background of cloud motifs arranged in rows. The relief decorations on the stems resemble flowers. They are not eggshell, but much thicker.

The hidden design comes out when the cups are held up against the light. On one, there is a blue dragon with two red flames and two Chinese characters. The hidden design on the other is a blue phoenix again with two red flames and the same two Chinese characters as the other cup. Such cups are traditionally used in Chinese wedding ceremonies where the bride and groom are required to toast each other to a cup of wine.

Dragon and phoenix relief designs differ in style when compared to the vase and bowl featured on your page.

I frankly know very little about the cups. I bought them about a year ago from an individual who brought them in from China. He said they were antiques.

I was rather skeptical but if you noticed, the two cups have flaws in workmanship, that is, one cup is slightly tilted and the brim of the other is also slightly tilted in one place. Fakes tend to be perfect.

The appearance is old; the sheen of the glaze is mostly gone. There are no date, dynasty or source markings on the exterior.

I am Chinese. In ancient Chinese practice, a newly married couple when retiring to their bedroom in private, toast each other to a glass of wine thus symbolically sealing a harmonious union. Any cup will do.

However, peculiar to weddings, all appliances and decorations used bear a dragon and phoenix as a pair symbolizing the union of man and woman.

A pair of cups in dragon and phoenix designs respectively is almost certainly a wedding appliance. I am inferring this though from my knowledge of Chinese culture and practices but do not know that this pair of cups have been used in a wedding for a fact.

Hope this information will come in useful and look forward to receiving your opinion.

Late Qing dynasty original design

Your vine cups are very nice and quite interesting, not the least thanks to the information regarding wedding ceremonies you were kind enough to supply.

Based on earlier discussion I have had with several collectors regarding pieces with this design I would suggest your wine cups are an original design from the late 19th century even if we still cannot rule out a slightly later date.

The Chinese character seen together with the decoration seems to be an old character for the word "Guan" = imperial but in this context merely in its honorary capacity.

Regarding its value I have very little information to base a suggestion on, but I believe they would be quite interesting for a collector.

Jan-Erik Nilsson