Three of the emblems, the Jewel, the Minister and the General, are part of the Seven Treasures or the Seven Regal Symbols, qizhengbao, which according to the Buddhist Sutra, were brought to earth by the Universal Monarch, the Chakravartin. These emblems are symbolic of the pacifying and protective powers of the Buddha. The Seven Treasures include the Elephant, symbolising sovereignty and great wealth; the Wheel, representing the Buddhist doctrine; the Horse, representing facility in war and transportation; the Wish-Granting Jewel; the Queen who serves as the virtuous wife to the king; the Minister who is responsible for the welfare of the people; and the General who holds authority over the military troops to defend the borders from attack.
The remaining four emblems, the conch shell, the lotus, the paired fish and the endless knot form part of the Eight Buddhist Emblems, bajixiang. The Eight Buddhist Emblems include: the Wheel of Law (falun), the inexorable expansion of the Buddha's teaching; the Conch Shell (luo), majesty, felicitous journey, the voice of the Buddha; the Umbrella (san), spiritual authority, reverence, purity; the Canopy (gai), royal grace; the Lotus (hua), purity, truthfulness in adversity; the Vase (ping), Eternal harmony, the receptacle of lustral water, the nectar of immortality; the Paired Fish (shuangyu), conjugal happiness, fertility, protection, spiritual liberation; the Endless Knot (panchang), eternity.
Perhaps the closest example to the current group of emblems is a set of zitan and spinach jade Qixhenbao in the Palace Museum in Beijing, illustrated in Jadeware (III), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Hong Kong, 1995, pp. 138-139, no. 114. A number of sets of the Seven Treasures were included in A Special Exhibition of Buddhist Gilt Votive Objects, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1995. A set, also carved from spinach jade, is illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 24; compare also nos. 22 and 23 made from gilt-copper; no. 25 of gilt-copper and champleve enamel; and nos. 26 and 27, inlaid with semi-precious stones. An enamelled gilt-copper set was included in the exhibition Buddhist Art from Rehol: Tibetan Buddhist Images and Ritual Objects from the Qing Dynasty Summer Palace at Chengde, Chang Foundation and Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, 1999, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 69.
It is interesting to find a reference on how the emblems were used. An official Court portrait of Emperor Kangxi in his later years, depicts the elderly monarch holding a string of beads, seated behind at a low table arranged with a complete set of the eight emblems; cf. Court Paintings of the Qing Dynasty of the Collection in the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1992, pl. 14.