Raft Cup

Raft Cup


attributed to Zhu Bishan

(Chinese, c. 1300-aft 1362)

Hammered silver soldered together, with chased decoration

Overall: 16 cm (6 5/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1977.7



This rare silver cup is dated, inscribed, and impressed with a seal of the famous silversmith Zhu Bishan. Shaped like a hollow log, the cup can be filled through its upturned tip. The figure might be Zhang Zhihe, an official of the Tang dynasty in the 700s who chose to live as a Daoist recluse in the mountains after he was dismissed from court. According to legend, Zhang gets lost on his journey in the Milky Way. Here he looks up to the stars. Those who drink from the cup see straight into the immortal’s eyes.

The inscription in seal script style (zhuanshu) reads:

Raft cup, made in the yiyou-year of Zhizheng [1345], Whoso wishes to reach the Milky Way is obstructed by the sky; Once there was a man, restless and valiant, who penetrated into the silver sea. Alas! Why did he not seek for some embroidery from the celestial loom? He only brought back in his arms a slab of stone used to prop up the loom.

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