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Ming Dynasty ‘Chicken Cup’ Sells for $36 Million: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

It’s been called the “Holy Grail of Chinese Art,” and now the legendary Meiyintang “Chicken Cup” earns the prestigious honor of being the most expensive piece of Chinese art in the world. The Chicken Cup was sold today at international auction house Sotheby’s for a recording breaking $36 million in Hong Kong. The cup is 500 years old and dates back to the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1465 to 1487.

Here is what you need to know about the cup, the price, and the buyer:


1. The Cup is 8 Centimeters in Diameter

The small cup, which you can see above in a video clip of the auction, is only about 8 centimeters in diameter, making it worth around $4.5 million per centimeter. The small porcelain up earned its title because of the small, colorful, and vivid depictions of roosters and chicks around the outside of it.


2. It Shatters the Record for the Most Expensive Porcelain

The Chicken Cup breaks a number of records, including most expensive piece of Chinese art ever sold, most expensive piece of porcelain ever sold, and, according to BBC, the most expensive cup.

According to Bloomberg, the previous record for Chinese art was set in October 2013, when Chinese property developer Zheng Huaxing paid over $30 million U.S. for a bronze Buddha statue.


3. Only 17 Exist in the World

According to Sotheby’s, only 17 Chicken Cups exist in the world, and the one sold on April 8 is the one in the best condition. Of the 17, four are in private hands and the rest are in museums. This particular cup was owned by Philippines-born businessman Stephen Zuellig.


4. It Was Purchased by a Former Cab Driver

Liu Yiqian is one of the leading forces behind the rebirth of China’s art market. According to a New York Times profile of Yiqian, which you can watch above, the 50-year-old is a self-made millionaire. After dropping out of high school, the Shanghai native drove a cab until he had enough money to play the stock market, and that’s when he hit it big. According to Forbes, Yiqian is now worth $900 million and is the 200th richest person in China.


5. The Cup Will Likely Be Displayed in Shanghai

shanghai long museum

Long Museum. (Youtube/New York Times)

With his money, Yiqian has amassed a large and unfathomably valuable art collection that he displays in his personal art museum, the Long Museum in Shanghai. The $300 million museum was opened by Yiqian and his wife in 2012 to house their private art collection. The BBC believes the Chicken Cup will become an important part of the museums collection.

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