This very fine bowl is a rare Qianlong example of a decorative motif that was characteristic of the finest Yongzheng vessels. The present lot belongs to a group of superb bowls, dishes and chargers that were decorated with fruiting and flowering branches on which the painter starts the design at the exterior foot of the dish and then continues it over the rim and into the interior. This device is known in Chinese as guozhihua, and on a bowl with this combination of prunus, pomegranates and bats motif, the exterior and interior decorations must be read together in order to gain the complete significance of the design. Decorative patterns of this type provide a design challenge in order to obtain a harmoniously balanced result. The current bowl is particularly successful in this regard. The decorator has made full use of the contrast between the fine white body and the vibrant enamels. On the interior, the two branches reach over the rim, divide and arch around opposite sides of the bowl extending toward the three bats in flight, while on the exterior the branches with and iron-red blooms extend around the bowl and lead the eye to the remaining two bats.
The pair of pomegranate shiliu, splitting open exposing their many seeds liukai baizi represents a wish for one hundred sons. The tree peony mudan symbolises wealth and honour, in this context 'honour' refers to high rank, having an official position or a high social rank. The five bats, wufu provide rebuses both for Great Fortune and for the Five Blessings of longevity, health, love of virtue, and a peaceful death. It is also significant that some of the bats are shown upside down, because in Chinese language an upside down bat provides a homophone for 'happiness has arrived'. The combination of these motifs would have been appropriate for a newlywed couple and suggests that this bowl commissioned to be presented as an Imperial wedding gift.