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Home > Facts > Ancient Architecture > Flowing-Cup Pavilion

Flowing-Cup Pavilion

This is a pavilion that used to serve as a place of recreation for men of letters. Under the stone floor of the pavilion, the water is winding along a channel from a spring. Participants to the 'flowing-cup' game would in turn fill a cup with liquor and set it 'sailing' down the mini-canal. The man whose cup reached the end of the ditch without spilling would be a winner. On the other hand, a loser would be made to drink or compose a poem as a forfeit.

The game, according to another source, could be played in a different way. Players took their respective positions along the ditch. He, in front of whom the cup stopped, would be made to drink or chant a poem of his composition.

Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), it is said, was a great enthusiast for this game. The 'flowing-cup pavilion' built for the emperor still stands today in the Imperial Garden of the Forbidden City (the Beijing Imperial Palace ). Another pavilion of this type in Beijing is found at Prince Gong's Mansion. Although a poem (praising the pleasures of the game, 'especially on a rainy day when there is little else to entertain the visitors with') is still intact on its columns, yet, alas! There is now neither flowing water nor cup. If the pastime should be revived with some modern variations-beer, lemonade or tea instead of spirits, singing or telling a joke as the forfeit if the players are not poets-it would certainly arouse considerable interest.

Another famous 'flowing-cup pavilion' is Lanting (Orchid Pavilion) in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, which was a favorite resort of the great 4th-century calligrapher Wang Xizhi (321-379) and his friends, who used to gather there for the game and poem recitals. The little stream which carried the sailing cup is still there to greet modern admirers.
Some special forms of pavilions in China

Flowing-Cup Pavilion           Storied Pavilion           Waterside Pavilion

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