Chinese chicken cup used for a quick brew by billionaire

A Chinese billionaire has caused outrage among collectors, as he took a sip of tea from his Chenghua "chicken cup" - the most valuable piece of Chinese porcelain ever sold at auction.

Chenghua chicken cup
The chicken cup, so-called due to its decoration, is the world's most valuable piece of Chinese porcelain

The chicken cup is considered the pinnacle of Chinese porcelain production, and has been revered for centuries. They were produced only for the imperial courts, and used by emperors throughout several dynasties.

Yet Liu Yiqian, who bought it for $36.2m from Sotheby's in April, was photographed drinking from the cup, prompting some to claim he is not treating it with proper respect.

Liu says he wanted to experience the cup as it was intended: "Emperor Qianlong has used it, now I've used it. I just wanted to see how it felt.

"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," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Known as "the eccentric Mr Liu" by his staff for such outrageous behaviour as wearing t-shirts in the office and periodically growing a beard, the billionaire made his fortune on the stock market. He is thought to be one of China's richest men.

He is also one of the country's greatest collectors, having purchased a Qing Dynasty imperial throne for $11m at Sotheby's in 2010.

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