A dainty cup decorated with a rooster and touted as the "holy grail" of Chinese art sold for a record $36 million at a Sotheby's auction today.
The Meiyintang Chnghua "chicken cup" was purchased by Shanghai art collector Liu Yiqian at Sotheyb's Hong Kong spring sales, according to the auction house.
The purchase price broke the world auction record for Chinese porcelain. The record was previously set at $32.4 million, the price of a gourd-shaped Qianlong vase sold in 2010.
The "chicken cup" was described by Sotheby's deputy chairman for Asia as the "holy grail" of Chinese art despite measuring just 3 inches in diameter. The cup, which features a rooster and hen tending to their chicks, is one of only 17 such cups in existence, having been made during the reign of the Ming Dynasty's Chenghua Emperor, according to Sotheby's.
The cup's new owner, Liu, is a middle-school dropout who went on to become a multimillionaire ranked by Forbes as the 200 th richest person in China, The Associated Press reports.
It is expected that Liu will bring the cup back to China to be housed in the Long Museum in Shanghai owned by Liu and his wife.
"This Chicken Cup is sure to become a destination piece drawing visitors to Mr. Liu's Long Museum," Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby's Asia, said in a statement. "This is indeed the crowning glory of the finest collections of Chinese porcelain."