• by vinux

The Fair Share Cup, an ancient Han Chinese drinking vessel made of porcelain, features a figure of an old man or dragon head at the center with a hollow ceramic tube running through it. The top of the tube is equivalent to the height of the black birthmark on the chest of the old man (or dragon jaw). At the bottom of the head where it connects to the base of the cup, there is a hole. When water is poured into the cup, if its level is lower than that of the top of the ceramic tube, no water will leak out; however, when its level exceeds that of the top of the ceramic tube, water will leak out from a hole in the bottom of cup. This kind leakage cup used by Han nationality people is called “Fair Share Cup” which is based on siphon principle in physics. When pouring wine into this cup, it should be shallow and equitable; otherwise all wine will flow out with nothing left in it.

The Gongdao Cup is a delicate and special cup made by skilled craftsmen in the “Imperial Ware Factory” opened by the government of the Ming Dynasty in Jingdezhen.

It is said that it took half a year for the Imperial Kiln Factory to make the exquisite “Jiulong Cup” and present it to the emperor when they went to Beijing. Emperor Hongwu Zhu Yuanzhang was very fond of it when he saw it, and he often used it to entertain civil and military ministers with wine.

At a banquet, Zhu Yuanzhang wanted to give a few of his trusted ministers more wine to drink, so he specially ordered that their wine cups be filled. The other ministers’ cups had only a small amount of wine in them. But when it came time to drink, the other ministers happily drank their wine, while the ministers who had been specially taken care of had no wine left in their cups – much to their embarrassment.

Upon investigation, Zhu Yuanzhang realized that the Nine Dragon Cup was made in a special way so that when it was used to hold wine, it could only be filled up halfway and not beyond; otherwise all the wine in the cup would leak out, not a drop remaining. Zhu thought this way of filling up the Nine Dragon Cup was very fair, hence he named it “Fairness Cup”. It teaches people that one must act fairly and should not be overly greedy.

The cups we use for making tea nowadays are originally called “tea bowls”. However, due to its main purpose of evenly distributing tea soup and sharing tea, it also has the name of “fair cup”, while the name of “tea bowl” is gradually less used and forgotten by people.