Your Guide to Buying Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups

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Your Guide to Buying Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups

Antique Chinese porcelain tea cups are a delightful and highly collectable item. Chinese porcelain is well-made and features beautiful patterns, colours and designs. The following guide provides consumers with relevant information they will need to purchase antique Chinese porcelain tea cups on eBay with confidence. The guide covers the following topics: a brief history of Chinese porcelain, a consideration of antique Chinese porcelain tea cups as a contemporary consumer category, the materials used to make Chinese Porcelain, different types of porcelain used in tea cups, factors to consider when purchasing Chinese Antique porcelain tea cups and best methods to care for antique Chinese porcelain.

History of Chinese Porcelain

Being blessed with rich deposits of Kaolin, the clay used to produce porcelain and other ceramics, China, has historically led other nations in the creation of pottered and ceramic items. As far back as 1600 BC, during the Shang dynasty, there was already evidence of complex ceramic items being produced in China. These items, which were called proto porcelain, were more sophisticated than those produced anywhere else in the world at that time.

During the Han dynasty in China (196-220 AD), porcelain was first properly developed. The Chinese invention of porcelain would come more than a thousand years before any other civilization was able to produce it. The porcelain process advanced further over the first millennium. During the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD), improvements in that process allowed for the creation of Sancai porcelain – a three coloured, highly prized form of porcelain.  

During the second millennium, China’s division of labour and trade networks grew more complex. In particular, in the Ming dynasty (1368 -1644), a lucrative trade developed between Europe and China. Newly developed blue and white porcelain – created in the mid-14th century – was a coveted item by Europeans. For hundreds of years Europeans would attempt to learn how to produce porcelain, but they were without success until the 18th century.  

Discover Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups

The fact that China was the only country producing porcelain up until the 18th century led Europeans to refer to many porcelain items as, simply, “China”. The porcelain tea cup is an excellent example of an item that would have been coveted by European royalty and nobility. Richly decorated, often on attractive blue and white porcelain, the antique tea cup can be bought as an ornate collectable. It can also be used as a functional item during afternoon tea. There is a wide selection of antique Chinese porcelain tea cups on eBay.

Components of Chinese Porcelain Antique Tea Cups

The following list will detail some of the primary components that are used in porcelain.




Soft, earthy, white clay found in abundance in China. This material is the base of most porcelain. Also used in tooth paste, glass and paper production.


Feldspar is a mineral that contains aluminium, silicate and flint. Feldspar is a commonly used mineral in glass and ceramics.


Quartz is silica, which is a compound of oxygen and silicon. It is the most common material used to form the body of porcelain wares.

Petunse (pottery stone)

Petunse is the term for a wide range of micaceous or feldspathic rocks. These rocks have been subjected to geologically decompositionand formed into a mineral used in porcelain production. Petunse is also referred to as pottery stone.

Types of Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups

The table below highlight a few major genres of porcelain that were used in the construction of tea cups. 



Additional Considerations

Ding ware

Characterised by its lightweight natures and its warm, ivory coloured glaze.

· Potters in the 12th century were able to use moulds to mass produce.

Ru Ware

Lavender blue, crackled glazed porcelain.

· One of the rarest forms of porcelain. Highly sought after.

Jun Ware

Straw ash in the glaze creates the unique blue glaze, suffused in white.

· Created during the Song dynasty, 960 – 1126 AD.

Ge ware

A grayish-blue glaze that is fully opaque. Has exaggerated crackled patterns.

· A popular style during the Ming dynasty.

Guan Ware

Celadon porcelain with crackling.

· Considered one of the five great wares of the Song dynasty.

Blue and white

White porcelain decorated under the glaze with blue pigment.

· One of China’s largest export items to Europe.

Factors to Consider When Buying Antique Porcelain Tea Cups

Get the story behind the antique

Provenance is a document that proves the authenticity of an antique. If sellers have written evidence that shows the items previous ownership, it can create a time line. This time line will help authenticate the item and place an accurate value on it.

Determine if it is an antique

An important factor for buyers is being sure that what has been purchased is an authentic antique. Antiques that are exported from China should have a red, wax seal on their bottom. This seal signifies that the Chinese government has, as their law dictates, examined the item before it was exported and classified it an antique.

Determine if the item has been altered

With most household items, repairing any damage would stop the item from losing value. This is not the case with antiques. Chinese tea cups should not be repaired or tampered with. Well-crafted porcelain will naturally show some wear and tear and this is to be expected. Touch ups, of any kind, on a tea cup can devalue the item.

Consider an ornamental versus functional purchase

When purchasing antique tea cups a major question to consider is the intended use of them. Different price points will come to bear depending on whether the tea cups are to be strictly decorative or put into functional use. Plan the use for the item before purchasing.

How to Care for Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups

The correct maintenance of an antique Chinese porcelain tea cup will ensure that it keeps its value and aesthetic appeal. Below are some helpful tips on how to clean an antique Chinese porcelain tea cup.

  • Prepare a work area by laying down soft towels or old blankets. This is designed to help prevent any damage, or chipping, to the cups if they are mishandled. 
  • Brush the cups with a soft brush to remove any loose dirt.
  • Combine one-quarter cup of mild dish washing soap and 1 litre of warm water and stir vigorously.
  • Use a sponge, or soft cloth, to dip into the solution and gently wipe any soil or residue off of the cups. Pat the cups dry with a soft cloth afterwards. 
  •  If there are light stains on the cups, vinegar can be used to try to remove them. Pour two tablespoons of vinegar into a shallow dish. Dab a cotton swab into the vinegar and rub the swab on any discoloured sections of the tea cups. When complete, wipe the treated areas down with a damp cloth to remove any excess vinegar. Allow the cups to air dry.

Additional notes: Do not store decorated porcelain where there is continuous sun light. Direct, continuous sunlight can cause discolouration on porcelain.  

Major Dynasties in China that Created Porcelain Tea Cups

  • Tang Dynasty: 618-906 AD
  • Song Dynasty: 960- 1279 AD
  • Yuan Dynasty: 1279 -1368 AD
  • Ming Dynasty: 1368 – 1644 AD
  • Qing Dynasty: 1644-1912 AD

Accessories for Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups

  • Washing up liquid
  • Soft cloth/sponge
  • Vinegar
  • Chinese antique tea pot/plates

Finding Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups on eBay

Once you determine the type of antique Chinese porcelain tea cups you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on 'Ceramic, Porcelain', then and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for antique Chinese porcelain tea cups. For example, to find antique Chinese porcelain tea cups, type ‘antique Chinese porcelain tea cups’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tipsppage for more advice on searching for antique Chinese porcelain tea cups with keywords. If you can’t find the antique Chinese porcelain tea cup you want, try shopping eBay Stores..


Chinese porcelain items can be a lovely addition to an antiques collection or a beautiful home accent piece. An antique Chinese porcelain tea cup can be a nice piece of decorative art or a sound financial investment. Understanding the history of antique Chinese porcelain, along with knowledge of some of the varieties of porcelain used in tea cups and best practices required to maintain porcelain, a more informed purchase can be made. eBay encourages you to continue your research further. Look at additional buying guides and seek out additional information online and through libraries. It is always advised that a buyer collect as much information as possible before deciding on a purchase.  Once you have collected this information, you can buy antique Chinese Porcelain Tea Cups safely and securely on eBay..