The present white jade box and cover is replete with auspicious symbolism, and may suggest that it was intended as a gift on the occasion of a wedding. Accoring to Terese Tse Bartholomew in Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, San Francisco, 2006, p. 41, two butterflies (hudie) facing each other represent a joyful encounter (xi xiangfeng), and can symbolize both marital happiness and the union of husband and wife. This wish is doubled by the presence of two pairs of butterflies seen confronted around a double happiness (shuangxi) character.
Compare the pair of white jade boxes and covers carved with elephants, also dated to the Qianlong period, sold in our London rooms, 13 May 2008, lot 63. An 18th century white jade box and cover of similar shape, although of slightly smaller size (14.6 cm.), carved with bats and auspicious emblems, was sold in these rooms, 22 March 2007, lot 96. Another white jade box and cover, although of more domed shape and of slightly smaller size (14.7 cm.), carved with the wufu encircling a shou medallion, from the Madame Florence Van der Kemp Collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 31 May 2010, lot 1894, where it was dated to the Qianlong period (1736-1795).