The high-relief carving and serrated rockwork, combined with the effective use of the skin and other natural markings in the stone are key features of the Suzhou group represented by this extraordinary bottle. See Yang Boda, "Jade. Emperor Ch'ien Lung's Collection in the Palace Museum, Peking," Arts of Asia, March-April 1992, where the author states, "...the rusted skin of the jade obtained from river beds was highlighted to enhance the beauty of the piece. For instance, in carving jade mountains, the skin part was reserved for the mountain slopes and woods while the white core was used to depict the running rivers and waterfalls." This use of natural material added interest to the carved decoration and realism to the landscapes, while avoiding wastage of the raw material. The author also discusses the Qianlong Emperor's interest in the jade market of Suzhou's Zhuanzhu Lane, the largest jade center in China. Suzhou's geographical position on the Imperial canal, combined with its gardens and canals, also led to its role as one of the main cultural centers in China. Many painters, calligraphers, poets and musicians lived in Suzhou, and their pursuits and interests form the main subject matter of the group of agate and jade snuff bottles intricately carved in a style unique to the area. Such artistic developments resulted in eighteenth-century imperial agents scouring the area for intriguing products to satisfy an imperial passion for novelty in art.
The figure shown kneeling with hands clasped as if in prayer may represent Mi Fu. The depiction of the wise scholar, who valued and venerated unique stones and boulders, is an appropriate subject for such a uniquely naturalistic pebble of jade.
Hugh Moss discusses a related Suzhou pebble-form jade bottle, once in the the Mary and George Bloch Collection and now in The Water Pine and Stone Retreat Collection of Snuff Bottles, Hong Kong, in an online article entitled The Water Pine and Stone Retreat Collection of Snuff Bottles, Part Two, Non-Imperial Influence over the Snuff Bottle Arts, The Zhiting School at Suzhou where he notes:
"The epitome of this Zhiting-school style in pebble nephrite is the famous bottle from the Bloch Collection 31.3.811. The inscription, in an extraordinary double layer of relief skin-colouring, reads, Shi ru jin ??? (‘[Cherish] stone as if it were gold’)—a precept that I honoured by irresponsibly outbidding all rivals to acquire it when it came up at the end of the first of the Bloch auctions in 2010: it made far, far more than its weight in gold. The phrase ‘cherish the stone as if it were gold’ is a common declaration of principle among the many Chinese who collect interesting, strange stones or who prize fine stones for seal carving and other arts: if it is to be carved, as little of the stone as possible is to be removed."