The inscription may be translated, 'Collecting rhinoceros horns from India, these are hollowed out, ground, incised and made into wine/ear cups. The piece is in the Han style, and as if naturally formed. Spreading fragrance, it chases away evil and cures poison. What a wonderful treasure'. Signed Bao Tiancheng.
Two cups of this form, both carved with an inscription, are illustrated by T. Fok, Connoisseurship of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, Hong Kong, 1999, nos. 54 and 58. The first, in the collection of the author, bears the signature of You Kan; the second, in the collection of Mrs. Angela Lau, bears the seal of Bao Tiancheng, like the present example.
Another cup of this form carved in relief with an inscription signed Bao Tiancheng was sold in these rooms, 19 September 1996, lot 344.
The inscriptions on the above-cited cups and the present example all refer to antiquity or the Han dynasty.