$36 Million Chinese Bowl

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A small Ming dynasty-era bowl dubbed the “chicken cup” sold for US$36.3 million at a Sotheby’s sale in Hong Kong recently, setting a record for the most expensive Chinese porcelain ever sold at auction.

The buyer, Shanghai-based collector Liu Yiqian, didn’t flinch at the final tally.

“Why do you all care so much about the price?” he said in a telephone interview after the sale, adding that he thought the amount he paid was reasonable.

“I bought it only because I like it,” said Mr. Liu, who made his fortune in finance. He also owns, along with his wife Wang Wei, the Long Museum in Shanghai, a private museum that houses a portion of his vast collection.

The cup was made in imperial kilns during the emperor Chenghua’s reign in the 15th-century.

Chicken cups have long been prized among wealthy Chinese, with classical literature referencing the small wares, saying aristocrats and emperors would spend fortunes for a single sample. Porcelains made during the Chenghua period are regarded as the most refined by collectors.

The small cup, which got its nickname thanks to the painted depiction of chickens on the side of the cup, is one of 19 chicken cups known to exist in the world. All but four are in museum collections.

The auction room at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was packed, with more than 250 people sitting and standing to see the final price. Bidding lasted seven minutes and by the time it was over, it was a two-way tussle between Mr. Liu, who placed his bid on the phone via Sotheby’s Asia Chief Executive Kevin Ching, and Giuseppe Eskenazi, a London-based dealer.

The cup was part of the Meiyintang collection owned by the Swiss Zuellig family. The Zuelligs have been selling off their collection gradually in recent years.

Nicholas Chow, Sotheby’s top expert in Chinese ceramics, called the chicken cup the “holy grail” of Chinese porcelains. “Every time a chicken cup comes to market, it redefines prices,” he said after the sale.

The cup’s new owner, Mr. Liu, has previously been at the center of controversy in the Chinese art world despite being one of the country’s largest collectors. Mr. Liu is confident about the provenance of the chicken cup, adding that he plans to eventually exhibit his new acquisition at his museum for the public to view.

“I will show it at an appropriate time,” he said. “You will see it.”

The Father of Forensics

Alexandre_LacassagneFor centuries, solving crimes was something of a hit-or-miss field. There was no such thing as forensics, no way to take and compare fingerprints, and no way of analyzing crime scenes or piecing together the events that led up to the crime.

Until, that is, one 19th-century professor teaching at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Lyon decided that his students needed some hands-on experience more than they needed a refresher course on the way things had always been done. Suddenly, for the first time, students weren’t sitting in lectures but they were performing dozens of autopsies every year.

Alexandre Lacassagne single-handedly revolutionized forensic science. He trained his students to look for the pieces that told the story of a person’s murder, from bruises on the body to checking the internal organs of a victim for signs of drowning. He taught them how to use chemical reactions to look for trace evidence, and how to tell the difference between dried blood and rust. He showed them how to examine the insects that were present on a dead body to determine just how long the person had been dead.

Since there was no place suitable for the type of exams and work that he had in mind, Lacassagne created his own laboratory—complete with state-of-the-art equipment, most of which had never been regularly used for police work.

He also constructed a macabre museum of sorts, where students could look at and learn about the human body under different types of conditions. He had skulls that were fractured and broken by different instruments, sketches and plaster casts of crime scene body parts, stillborn babies of different ages, displays of weapons both standard and makeshift. He had vials of poisons and bodily fluids, and even different types of ropes to show students how the rope itself would match the wounds it left behind.

He also developed the idea of ballistics. He’s noted for providing evidence in several cases in which he successfully proved a particular gun was a murder weapon by firing bullets into cadavers then comparing those bullets with ones that were pulled from a murder victim.

Lacassagne even cataloged thousands of different tattoos that were common among the underworld’s unsavory characters. While serving in the military, he became fascinated by the idea of tattoos providing a very visible look into a person’s most innermost feelings. Then he began recording.

If there were any who doubted these newly developed methods, those doubts were erased with Lacassagne’s persecution of a man known as the French Jack the Ripper. Joseph Vacher was a spree killer who raped and murdered his way across the French countryside in 1894 before finally being arrested. Clearly crazy, it was an insanity defense that was making it look likely that he wouldn’t be beheaded for his crimes, but instead committed to life in an asylum.

Lacassagne was, however, able to recreate the heinous acts that Vacher had committed, leaving no doubts that he knew exactly what he was doing. He showed no remorse, was known for torturing and killing small animals, and had all the hallmarks of what we would now call a psychopath. Vacher was deemed culpable and was executed in 1898.

72 Uses For Common Household Items

People have been using common substances like citrus juices, oils and vinegars for cooking, as household cleaners and personal grooming products, for centuries, and many of the store bought products we buy everyday use these items as their core ingredients.

However, these store bought products also contain chemicals and toxins we’re better off leaving on the store shelves, and using core ingredients also means saving money.

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This simple yet informative chart takes household products back to the old school, showing dozens of great uses for everyday products like baking soda, white vinegar and coconut oil.

The chart is missing amount recommendations for each use, but they’re pretty easy to figure out with a little help from Google.

A Twisted Bit of Irony

geo harrisonA pine tree planted in memory of the late Beatle George Harrison has died after being infested with insects.

The culprits: beetles.

Councilman Tom LaBonge told the Los Angeles Times that the memorial tree, located in L.A.’s Griffith Park, had grown to more than 10 feet tall as of 2013 before it was overwhelmed by the onslaught of tree beetles.

The tree was planted in 2004 near the Griffith Observatory in memory of Harrison, who was an avid gardener and spent his final days in Los Angeles before his passing in 2001.

LaBonge said that a new tree will be planted at the memorial site at a yet to be determined date.