No other comparable bamboo carving appears to have been published. The figure is particularly rare for its large size, exquisite detail, unusual form and subject matter. Extant bamboo carvings of this size are generally crudely carved with little attention to detail but the carver of the present example uses highly sophisticated and fluid carving to depict the folds of the robes, the poet's dreamy expression and the fine details of the jar and rank badge. The crane among scrolling clouds depicted on the rank batch denotes a minister of the first rank in the Qing dynasty ranking system.
Li Bai (701-762) was the foremost poet of the Tang dynasty and, together with Du Fu, remains one of the most famous poets in Chinese history. His ambition to serve the Emperor Huizong as a statesman was thwarted when the Emperor employed him as a palace poet composing mundane lyrics for the Court. His frustrated political ambition is represented here by the rank badge on his back signifying minister of the first rank, and an amusing artistic interpretation of the Tang dynasty poet by early Qing craftsman. Upon leaving the Court, he spent the rest of his life wandering the country and indulging in his love for wine.