These figures were probably meant to represent Indonesians or Western Asiatics, who were present in China in Ming and Qing times. The form possibly derives from Ming dynasty bronze figural oil lamps and vases, such as the one illustrated by Sydney Moss in The Second Bronze Age - Later Chinese Metalwork, Hong Kong, 1991, no. 20. Compare anon. sale, Christie's, London, 21 April 2005, lot 20 for a Kangxi period pair.