Carved Horn Libation Cup, 17th-18th century

Unknown artist, expand_more
Not on Viewexpand_more

The earliest datable examples of carved rhinoceros horn are from the 8th and 9th centuries, although the Chinese had used the material pharmacologically much earlier. A solid mass of agglutinated hair, rather than a true horn, the substance was valued for its rarity and rich, warm chestnut color, which deepened with years of handling and polishing. Though called libation cups, these vessels would have been primarily used for display, and they would have been accompanied by beautifully crafted hardwood stands. The simple organic shapes favored by the Ming dynasty gave way to increasingly elaborate and detailed forms during the Qing dynasty. Plant forms, ancient bronze vessel motifs and dragons figure prominently in rhinoceros horn decor, just as they do in jade and lacquer carvings.

Carved Horn Libation Cup
Accession Number
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.

No Image Available