The exquisitely enameled scene on the present vase may be identified as a famous episode from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, known as "Hiding a Babe among 10,000 Warriors". This classic novel, attributed to Luo Guanzhong (circa 1330-1400), tells of kingdoms competing during the collapse of the Han dynasty. In this dramatic scene set during the Battle of Changban in AD 208, the General Zhao Yun gallops with Liu Shan, the baby son of Liu Bei and heir to the Han throne. Just visible in the arms of the general, the baby dreams of a dragon, as Zhao Yun desperately escapes the army of Cao Cao, who appears to have them trapped on all sides.
General Zhao Yun was accused by some of disloyalty to Liu Bei, as he had apparently fled the battle and was suspected of surrendering to Cao Cao. However Liu Bei refused to believe such a possibility, claiming "Zilong (Zhao Yun's courtesy name) would never desert me." Indeed, Zhao Yun returned with the baby Liu Shan saved from the battle, and he was promoted by Liu Bei to General of the Standard.
The scene was also favored as decoration for other porcelain shapes: see, for example, a famille verte baluster vase and a famille verte rouleau vase, both illustrated in Kangxi Porcelain Wares from the Shanghai Museum Collection, Hong Kong, 1998, pp. 190-191, no. 124 and pp. 194-195, no. 126. A famille verte dish of the same subject matter is illustrated by E. Ströber, La Maladie de Porcelaine, Berlin, 2001, pp. 68-69, no. 27. A vase of similar shape, and also decorated with a historical narrative scene, is illustrated by He Li, Chinese Ceramics. A New Comprehensive Survey from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, New York, 1996, p. 301, no. 641.