Traditional scholar's rocks were objects of contemplation, of introspection. Zhan Wang subverts this function with new possibilities. Instead of plumbing the mysteries of nature in miniature form, the viewer finds the world reflected in the fluid surfaces of Zhan's rocks. Zhan has stated, "Placed in a traditional courtyard, rockery satisfied people's desire to return to nature by offering them stone fragments from nature. But huge changes in the world have made this traditional ideal increasingly out of date. I have thus used stainless steel to duplicate and transform natural rockery into manufactured forms. The material's glittering surface, ostentatious glamour and illusory appearance make it an ideal medium to convey new dreams."
As Wu Hong has written, "We must realize that to Zhan Wang, 'glittering surface, ostentatious glamour, and illusory appearance' are not necessarily bad qualities, and that his stainless-steel rocks are definitely not designed as satire or mockery of contemporary material culture. Rather, both the original rockeries and his copies are material forms selected or created for people's spiritual needs; their different materiality suits different needs at different times. The problem he addresses is thus one of authenticity: Which rock- the original or his copy- more genuinely reflects contemporary Chinese culture? Interestingly, the Chinese call natural rockeries jia shan shi, or "fake mountain rocks." According to Zhan Wang, such rocks, even if made of real stones, have truly become "fakes" when used to decorate a contemporary environment. But his stainless-steel rocks, though artificial, signify the "genuine" of our own time.