The overlay on this bottle is subtly shaded, ranging from an almost opaque light blue, as seen on the central figure on a donkey, to a more translucent, opalescent tone at the foot. The shading gives the overlay an “icy” effect, which compliments the atmosphere of the winter scene that is implied by the inclusion of the “Three Friends of Winter,” bamboo, pine and prunus.
The subject of a scholar riding a donkey, sometimes followed by an attendant holding a branch of prunus, has been variously interpreted. Ka Bo Tsang has identified this particular figure as the Tang-dynasty scholar, poet and recluse, Meng Haoran, who was reputed to have admired prunus blossoms. For further discussion, see Ka Bo Tsang, "Who is the Rider on the Donkey?", JICSBS, Summer, 1994, pp. 4-16, fig. 14. Another possibility is that the figure represents the fifth-century poet Lu Kai, from the Song State (AD 420-479) of the Southern Dynasties period, who is shown traveling in Jiangnan accompanied by his attendant, who carries a branch of prunus blossoms. Lu sends these blossoms hundreds of miles north to his friend the historian Fan Ye (AD 398-445) in Chang'an with a poem, the last line of which reads: "I send you merely a branch of spring."