Winged Cup with Geometric Designs

Period: Eastern Zhou dynasty, Warring States period (475–221 B.C.)

Date: 3rd century B.C.

Culture: China

Medium: Brown lacquer painted with red lacquer

Dimensions: H. 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm); W. 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm); L. 6 in. (15.2 cm)

Classification: Lacquer

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur M. Sackler Gift, 1974

Accession Number: 1974.268.4


By the Warring States period, Chu, noted for its lacquer production, was the major cultural force in south central China. The visual arts of Chu are often characterized as shamanistic in response to the prevalence of images of fairylike creatures riding on dragons, or clouds that change imperceptibly into dragons, and, as they meander through the sky, transform again into dragons. The playful, thin lines painted on this winged cup are a later stylized version of the traditional cloud-dragon motif. The two large winglike appendages on the cup are often described as "ears" in Chinese writings, and cups of this type, known from at least the eighth century B.C., are generally termed "ear-cups," or erbei. It was most likely once part of a matched set of eating and drinking vessels.