The function of the cup-stand is very similar to that of a saucer. As the steaming cups and bowls of tea have no handles, they are placed on stands when served or passed around, so as not to burn the fingers. In addition, they had a decorative purpose and were used as part of the presentation of the tea ceremony.
The mouth rim and the flange rim of the present vessel appear to have been bound with silver which has since been removed, exposing the core material underneath. This decorative technique of binding with silver became popular on ceramics in the 10th century, when silver and gold bands were applied to mise Yue wares sent from Zhejiang to the court, and continued on fine ceramics, such as Ding wares and qingbai porcelains, of the Song dynasty. Silver bands were also sometimes applied to fine lacquer wares, as can be seen on the three-tiered, six-lobed box excavated from a Southern Song tomb in Fuzhou city in 1975, illustrated in the Fujian Provincial Museum article, 'Brief, orderly, report of the excavation of a Southern Song tomb in the northern suburbs of Fuzhou city', Wenwu, 1977, No. 7, p. 11, pl. 3, no. 2.
No other cup-stand with the unusually thick flange rim appears to be published, and the metal band that covered it would have been quite extensive. Most other cup-stands known are more thinly formed than the present lot. A smaller Song brownish-red lacquer lobed cup-stand (6.5 cm. high) of similar shape and proportions to the current cup-stand, but without the silver bands or pendent edge to the flange, was excavated from a Northern Song tomb at Hanyang, Shilipu, Wuhan county, Hubei province, illustrated by M. Knight, 'So Fine a Luster: Chinese Lacquerwares', in China 5,000 Years - Innovation and Transformation in the Arts, H. Rogers (ed.), Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1998, p. 95, fig. 5. Another smaller Song dynasty cup-stand (6.2 cm. high) of similar shape, but without the metal bands on the flange and mouth rim, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by R. Kerr (ed.), Chinese Art and Design, London, 1991, p. 181 (shown supporting a stoneware tea bowl of the same period). The Museum's cup-stand bears an inscription which gives a cyclical date equivalent to either A. D. 1034 or 1094, and states that it was made in the city known today as Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. Compare also the slightly larger (9.2 cm. high) cup-stand with metal bands on the mouth and foot rims, from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, illustrated by the National Palace Museum, Taibei, Hai-wai Yi-chen - Chinese Art in Overseas Collections: Lacquerware, 1987, no. 24.