Wine cup with ring handle, birds, animals, and grapevines, China, Shaanxi province, probably Xi’an, early Tang dynasty, late 7th century © 2017 Smithsonian Institution
Although they look like tea cups, Chinese vessels such as this resemble earlier Sogdian gilt silver and gilt bronze wine cups. Their purpose is subtly suggested by the grapevine motif on the cup’s surface. Surprisingly, the cup appears to have been made using two different shaping techniques. The body, bottom, and foot were hammered from separate silver sheets that were soldered together, but the handle seems to have been cast. Although cups of this type frequently have handles of this design, this one is unusually large and elaborate. Consequently, some scholars think the handle could be a modern addition.