Zitan Floral Libation Cup
Zitan Floral Libation Cup. Finely carved in openwork with a lobed rim, supported on a network of knotted branches with buds and flowers. Note the neatly incised single circumferential line just below the rim.
China, 19th century.
Provenance: From a noted private collection in Abcoude, Netherlands.
Condition: Natural age cracks and minor losses to edges, some with associated old fills, natural flaws, chipping, several old lacquer coatings, partially worn off and renewed over centuries.
Weight: 204.0 g
Dimensions: Height 8.3 cm
Auction result comparison: Compare with a related zitan libation cup at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in Important Chinese Art on 4 November 2020, lot 313, sold for GBP 3,024.
- A libation is a ritual pouring of a liquid, or grains such as rice, as an offering to a deity or spirit, or in memory of the dead. It was common in many religions of antiquity and continues to be offered in cultures today.
Various substances have been used for libations, most commonly wine or other alcoholic drinks, olive oil, honey, and in India, ghee. The vessels used in the ritual, including the patera, often had a significant form which differentiated them from secular vessels. The libation could be poured onto something of religious significance, such as an altar, or into the earth.
In East Asia, pouring an offering of rice into a running stream, symbolizes the unattachment from karma and bad energy.
In Chinese customs, rice wine or tea is poured in front of an altar or tombstone horizontally from right to left with both hands as an offering to gods and in honour of deceased. The offering is usually placed on the altar for a while before being offered in libation. In more elaborate ceremonies honouring deities, the libation may be done over the burning paper offerings; whereas for the deceased, the wine is only poured onto the ground.