Cup in the Form of a Peony Blossom
Artist/maker unknown, Chinese
Peonies have long been linked with royalty and nobility in China; they were much loved by Tang dynasty (618–907) emperors, who cultivated them in their palaces. The flowers are also associated with wealth and rank. This peony-form cup has a hollow stem through which liquid can pass. It was made to commemorate a military exercise ordered by the Guangxu emperor, who, after suffering defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, was keen to reform and strengthen Chinese military power. According to the inscription on the underside of the stem, the exercise took place near Lake Tai in Anhui province in the 34th year of the reign of Guangxu (September 1908).