Elephants are associated with strength, wisdom and long-life in China and are also significant animals within the Buddhist religion. A prominent member of the Buddhist pantheon, Samantabhadra (Puxian), is also frequently depicted seated on an elephant. Elephants were a popular theme in Chinese art, especially that for the imperial court. The word for elephant in Chinese is xiang, which can also mean appearance, and which additionally sounds like a word meaning happiness. Elephants also provide another message when combined with a precious vase. The word for vase in Chinese is ping, which sounds the same as the word for peace. The combination of an elephant with a vase on its back thus suggests the phrase taiping youxiang, 'great peace in the world'. That message is re-emphasised by the inclusion of a saddle cloth, the word for which is an, sounding like another word for peace. The theme of the decoration on the current boxes is, therefore, a very auspicious one.
Examples of white jade boxes and covers from the National Museum of History, Taiwan are illustrated in Jade: Ch'ing Dynasty Treasures from the National Museum of History, Taiwan, 1999, Taipei, pl.196 & 197. Compare also a circular box and cover carved with five bats surrounding a Shou character from the Alan and Simone Hartman Collection, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 November 2007, lot 1519 (fig. 1); another circular box and cover, also carved with a Shou character from the Mme. Florence Van der Kemp Collection, sold at Christie's Paris, 13 June 2007, lot 98 (fig. 2)
The flawless quality of the stone of the present box and cover is of particular note; the largely uncarved areas emphasize the natural beauty of the high translucent material.