The imperial poem bears a bingwu cyclical date, corresponding to 1786 A.D.; and the incised text may be translated as:
In the middle of the Yulong River are the best jade boulders;
its colour is like a deep, misty cloud.
Heavily stained with earth to give it its blood-red colour;
this precious heshibi was exchanged for cities by Lin Xiangru.
Carved with dragon and clouds, it was once praised by the great literary master Han Yu of the Tang dynasty;
Who would dare to doubt that this is a Han Guang ?
The name heshibi is a historical reference to a story from the Warring States period, 'Returning the lost jade to Zhao', which expounds on a highly prized bi jade that belonged to the King of Zhao. The jade was sought by the King of Qin who proposed to exchange it for fifteen cities. However, knowing that the King of Qin would renege on the proposal, a wise vassal of the Zhao king, Lin Xiangru, plotted and smuggled the return of the jade back to the Zhao State.
The last line of text refers to this rhyton shape, known as a guang; this form was probably transferred to China during the Han dynasty via trade links with Central or Western Asia. For an example of a jade rhyton from the tomb of the King of Nan Yue, excavated in Guangzhou, dated to the Han dynasty, see J. Rawson (ed.), Chinese Jade: From the Neolithic to the Qing, fig. 61.
Other examples of similar rhyton-form have been published. The most comparable are two cups, one sold in our London Rooms, 5 June 1995, lot 352; and the other from the Gerald Godfrey Private Collection of Fine Chinese Jades, sold in these Rooms, 30 October 1995, lot 905. All three rhytons are carved from similarly textured stones with archaistic motifs and have inscriptions inside the rim. Cf. also a celadon and brown jade rhyton of similar shape from the Captain Louis Tissier Collection, sold in these Rooms, 30 October 1994, lot 458; a dark green jade guang illustrated by Yang Boda, in Jade, Arts of Asia, March-April 1992, p. 93 fig. 19; and another illustrated in Zhongguo Yuqi Quanji, Qing, vol. 6, no. 5.