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Detail showing Queen Victoria drinking tea at a Buckingham Palace Garden party

Serving and sipping a favourite beverage


Cup and cover Qianlong

RCIN 11636

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Around the edges of this Chinese cup is a 22-line poem extolling the virtues of the Qianlong Emperor's favourite drink: Sanqing cha, 'Tea of Three Purities'. It is a herbal infusion made from melted snow, plum blossom, Buddha's hand citron and pine nuts. During the first month of the Chinese year, the Qianlong Emperor would invite his ministers to sit with him for an evening and compose poetry while drinking this type of tea. This poem, written in 1746, describes how 'After coming to the boil, bubbles like the eyes of fish or crabs can be distinguished on the surface of the water / Steam rises from the tripod appearing to alternate between Utpadaniradha birth and death.' A number of mythical and real figures known for their love of tea are referenced throughout. The cup and cover were acquired by Queen Mary (1867–1953), who was an avid collector of Chinese and Japanese works of art.