Chicken Cup

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Chenghua mark and period (1465–87)

Culture: China

Medium: Porcelain painted with underglaze blue and overglaze colored enamel (Jingdezhen ware)

Dimensions: H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm); Diam. of rim 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm); Diam. of foot 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Purchase, Mrs. Richard E. Linburn Gift, 1987

Accession Number: 1987.85


This type of small, bowl-shaped vessel from the imperial kiln of the mid-Ming dynasty has been cherished as the pinnacle of fine Chinese porcelain. The pictorial decoration was achieved through a complicated process. First, the designs were drawn in cobalt blue on the unfired vessel. After glazing and high-temperature firing, they were filled in with overglaze enamel pigments and then fired at a lower temperature to bring out the vibrant colors. Known as a “chicken cup” for its decoration, this object’s charming scene of small chickens feeding in a garden conveys a core Chinese value: nurturing the young is essential to the continuation of the family line.