As early as the Southern Song period, the imagery of boys at play, set in a garden scene became a favoured theme in paintings popularised by the Southern Song court artist, Su Hanchen, who was active during early 12th Century. An example of Su Hanchen's painting is in the National Palace Museum collection, Taipei, entitled 'Boys at Play in an Autumn Garden', illustrated in Zhongguo Huihua Quanji, vol. 3, Zhejiang renmin meishu chubanshe, p. 140, no. 100. The Southern Song depiction of children with characteristic shaven heads, rounded faces and wide eyes from the children painted on the present jar. The theme of 'a hundred boys' became symbolic of progeny and fulfillment of Confucian ideals in education, and the advancement of sons. As such, this types of pictorial image was propagated on a wide range of decorative objects, including porcelain, jade, textile and lacquerware.
This 'hundred boys' pattern depicting the figures of boys in a larger format is seen on compressed ovoid jars such as the earlier Jiajing-marked examples, the first from the J.M. Hu Family and Jingguantang collections, sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 27 November 2007, lot 1738; and the other, also from the J.M. Hu Family collection, is now in the Tianminlou Foundation, illustrated in Chinese Porcelain, The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, vol. 1, Hong Kong, 1987, pl. 35. The present jar is unusual in that it presents the same theme, more complex in composition, with the figures in a smaller scale in a larger garden landscape.
Two jars of this same shape and design, both with a Jiajing reign mark, are known, the first was sold at Christie's London, 25 November 1974, lot 235; and the other is in the Shanghai Museum collection, illustrated by Lu Minghua, Mingdai Guanyao Ciqi, Shanghai renmen chubanshe, 2007, p. 156, no. 3-82. Jars of this pattern continued into the Wanli reign as can be seen by the present example.