The material favored by the Master of the Rocks school was referred to by Zhao Zhiqian in the late Qing period as "yellow steamed-chestnut" and to modern collectors as "han" jade. The main source of nephrite for the Chinese was the Kunlun Mountains which form the boundary between Xinjiang province and Tibet. Until the mining of raw material took flight in the late sixteenth century, jade merchants relied on pebbles carried by the two main rivers originating in the Kunlun Mountains and flowing on either side of Khotan. For centuries, the Chinese relied on this traditional method of gathering raw material, and despite the advent of mining in the late sixteenth century, it was not until the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century that Chinese jade connoisseurs overcame their prejudice against mined material. However, the long history of reverence for jade pebbles has meant that the Chinese have continued to use the weathered and discolored skin of pebbles and boulders in their carvings. This even led to the Qianlong Emperor issuing instructions to artificially stain jade in order to give pure material the impression of natural surface staining.
This bottle is carved from pebble material and the combination of the yellowish-green color contrasting with the dark-brown skin allows for the impression of a misty landscape setting for the mythical chi dragons. The carving of the dragons is very similar to an example in the Bloch collection, illustrated by Moss, Graham, Tsang, A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. I, Jade, no. 142, and another illustrated in Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle. The J & J Collection, no. 46. Like the Bloch bottle, the present example has an unusually wide mouth.
There seems to have been one workshop specializing in carvings from this distinctive material, known as the Master of the Rocks School. Its main output was of bottles in this material carved with landscape designs, but many other subjects are recorded, including a few with chi dragon designs which may have been partly produced for the Court. The quality of carving and the use of material of the present bottle are typical of this school.