The arrangement of the month cups in the present order is based on extensive research based on textual and pictorial evidence detailed by Yang Boda in his introduction to the Tsui Museum of Art, Chinese Ceramics, IV, pp. 63, 64, wehre he uses as a refernce the Kangxi Encyclopedia of Flowers, the month chart in Pingshi, the Huayueling. There are many clear-cut identifications for some of the months which certain flowers represent: prunus, peach, peony, pomegranate, lotus, cassia tree, chrysanthemum and wintersweet are inextricably tied to customs and seasonal observances within the months in which they flourish. The other flowers are less specific as there is more than one flower identified with the seventh month; in the second month, according to the Qunfangpu (Flower Manual), the crab-apple and magnolia also flourish; the last text along with the Huajing (Mirror of Flowers) make no mention at all of any flowers in the tenth month whilst the narcissus (in the present context representing the twelfth month) together with the wintersweet also represents the twelfth month; but as both are depicted in these Kangxi 'month' cups and since the wintersweet belongs definitively to the first lunar month, the narcissus falls logically to the twelvth.
The design format of these cups with a pictorial composition on one side and a poetic inscription ending in a seal mark on the other is inspired by the long tradition in classical painting and was an innovation of the Kangxi period. This format was to later gain currency and renown in the group of highly exclusive wares known as "Guyuexuan" in the Yongzheng and Qianlong reigns.
Dr. K.S. Lo donated a complete set of twelve month cups to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. These were included in the Exhibition of The Wonders of the Potter's Palette, Qing Ceramics, 1984, Catalogue, no. 15; another set is illustrated in Chinese Ceramics, The Idemitsu Collection, pl. 221; compare also with a set in the Percival David Foundation, illustrated and discussed by R. Scott, Fine Porcelain and Delicate Brushwork, Orientations, November 1986, pp. 22-35; figs. 2-2b; and another set of twelve in Beijing is illustrated in Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong, Qing Porcelain from the Palace Museum Collection, p. 65. A complete set was last sold in these Rooms, 18 March 1991, lot 543.
For a discourse on flowers in Chinese art, see W. Perceval Yetts, Notes on Flower Symbolism in China, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, January, 1941.