The inscription reads:
Cheng ru san gang meng;
qing zun wu da fu.
This short couplet is a poetic reference summarising the pictorial design of the carving, and may be translated as:
'If you enter my dream within the realm of this wine container;
we can enjoy the wine's pure fragrance under the pine tree.'
Whereas most rhinoceros horn libation cups carved with depictions of figures place them in a lavish landscape, the figures are quite small in relationship to their surroundings, in the tradition of classic landscape painting, the figure on this cup is the primary motif and best relates to two other rhinoceros horn libation cups in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Palace Museum Collection of Elite Carvings, 2002, pl. 210 with a horse and two herders below a willow tree and pl. 212 with Li Bai below rocky crags and pine branches. Another libation cup of the same subject from the collection of Dr. Ip Yee is illustrated by Jan Chapman, The Art Of Rhinoceros Horn Carving in China, London, 1999, fig. 288. An intriguing cup from The Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, is decorated with a woman seated, head in hand, dreaming, the cup itself is formed as a portion of the trunk of a prunus tree, the flowering branch of the handle is illustrated in op. cit., 1999, fig. 196. The last cited example is most comprable to the present lot and is probably carved by the same artist.