This is a rare example of the jade animal group presented by Moss, Graham and Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, nos. 1-5; Moss, Graham and Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 1, Jade, nos. 42-46, specifically no. 43, a white jade bottle in the form of a trotting sow; and another in H. Moss, Snuff Bottles of China, no. 33. Two other examples were sold in our London rooms, 12 October 1987, lot 342, and at Sotheby's, London, 3 February 1981, lot 179. The jade animal group appears to relate to a series of animal-form snuff bottles of amber, such as the bat-form bottle in lot 251 of this sale.
Of animalier snuff bottles, the pig is one of the more popular as it signifies the successful scholar. In the Tang dynasty, the names of candidates who passed the final civil service examination were inscribed on the wall of the Yan Ta Pagoda of the Ci'en Si Monastery in the capital, Chang'an. The phrase Yan Ta timing (Having one's name inscribed on Yan Ta) became a metaphor for gaining the highest academic achievement. As the practice evolved over the centuries the successful scholars' names were inscribed in red (zhu), and candidates about to undertake the examinations were often treated to braised pig feet (zhuti) for good luck. The words pun on the expression for an aspiring scholar who hopes to have his name (ming) inscribed (ti) in red (zhu). Models of pigs convey best wishes (see K.B. Tsang, "A Look at the Pig in the Year of the Pig", JICSBS, Spring 1995, pp. 12-20).