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Rhinoceros horn cup, China, 1701-1800

This ornate drinking cup is carved from a rhinoceros horn and is covered in intricate decorations. They show animals including dragons, tortoises and rabbits climbing around the cup as if ascending a mountain. One dragon curls over the lip of the cup. Rhinoceros horn is a form of keratinised hair, the same substance as our fingernails. It is thought to have magical medicinal properties within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This cup was made in the 1700s. It is highly valuable. Most species of rhinoceros are now listed as endangered animals, making the trade in rhino horn illegal.

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Glossary: Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical tradition originating in China, but now used worldwide. Treatments include herbal medicine, massage and acupuncture, which are combined to create a therapy tailored to the patient.

Glossary: horn cup

cup drinking vessel made of animal horn