Underglaze copper-red decoration, i.e. the copper colourant used to paint diversified patterns on the surface of a body and then covered by transparent glaze and fired at high temperature in a reductive firing environment, is famous all over the world. However, the red colouration mechanism generated by underglaze copper remains unclear. In particular, the fact that the edges of the red patterns are orange has been ignored in previous research. Here, non-destructive analysis has been carried out on a precious fragment of early underglaze red porcelain using synchrotron radiation X-ray fluorescence, X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES) and reflection spectrometry techniques. The results suggest that the copper content in the red region is higher than that in the orange region, and other colour generation elements do not have obvious content difference, indicating that the colour generation effect of the underglaze red product is related to the copper content. XANES analysis shows that the valence states of copper in the red and orange regions are similar and metal copper contributes to their hues. The results of reflection spectrometry demonstrate that tiny orange hues could be attributed to the Mie scatting effect. Therefore, light-scattering effects should be considered when researching the colouration mechanism of underglaze red.