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Rare rhino horn carving expected to sell for £25,000

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 27, 2012

Lucy Marles with the exceptionally rare Chinese rhinoceros horn libation cup

Lucy Marles with the exceptionally rare Chinese rhinoceros horn libation cup

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A rare and collectable ancient Chinese libation cup carved out of rhinoceros horn will be auctioned in Exeter next month.

Bids from around the world are expected for the rare artefact, with interest from the Chinese expected.

The cup, from the 17th or 18th century, is finely carved with fruiting vines, on a gnarled vine branch extending to the rim to form the handle. It is expected to fetch more than £25,000.

Libation cups were communal drinking vessels that were used on important ceremonial occasions.

Many years ago Chinese rhinoceros were found in Sichuan province but they have long since been hunted to extinction.

In Chinese customs, rice wine or tea is poured in front of an altar or tombstone horizontally from right to left with both hands as an offering to gods and in honour of the deceased.

The offering is usually placed on the altar for a while before being offered in libation.

In more elaborate ceremonies in honouring deities, the libation may be done over burning paper offerings, whereas for the deceased, the wine is only poured onto the ground.

The auction will take place at Bearnes Hampton and Littlewood Auctioneers in Exeter in a two-day sale starting on October 31.

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