Liu Yiqian, a finance mogul from Shanghai, caused a stir this week when pictures surfaced of him sipping tea from a more than 500-year-old porcelain cup he bought at auction for $36.6 million in April.
According to The Wall Street Journal
, the so-called "chicken cup" is one of just 19 that has survived from the era of the Ming dynasty, and features a cockerel, hen, and their chicks. Yiqian won it at a Hong Kong Sotheby's auction after a seven-minute bidding war, and paid using his American Express Centurion Card.
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Social media users in China took to the Weibo network to protest the sip, with many calling Yiqian an embarrassment.
"Sigh, Chinese people are just like this," one poster commented.
"No people who are civilized would treat a cultural treasure like this. No wonder Chinese people are looked down on by other countries’ citizens," said another.
On Monday, Yiqian defended his ceremonial sip, saying it wasn't planned, and implying that it was even encouraged by the people at Sotheby's.
"It happened when I was paying," he said. "A Sotheby’s staffer poured me some tea. I saw the [chicken cup] and excitedly poured some of that tea into the cup and drank a little. Such a simple thing — what’s so crazy about that?"
Some fellow citizens came to Yiqian's defense, expressing similar sentiments to his.
"The money that people have strived to earn all their lives, they’re just spending in search for some happiness. What’s it got to do with you?" wrote one.
When the cup was purchased, Bloomberg News reported
that the wealthy businessman earned enough American Express points to convert into 28 million frequent flyer miles or $180,000 worth of cash. He reportedly had to swipe the card 24 times to break the purchase up into manageable chunks due to maximum limits on single transactions.
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