The theme in this dish is associated with the Duanwujie festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Many of the themes associated with Duanwujie relate to the desire to combat evil forces and poisonous creatures. On this dish we see the legendary hero Zhong Kui, who cuts through evil with his sword, chasing a snake. The snake is one of the Five Poisonous Creatures. The others are centipede, toad, scorpion and lizard. A lizard is depicted on the exterior of this dish. Both the well and the exterior of the dish are painted with butterflies, pomegranate flowers and other blossoms. The pomegranate flowers, which are in bloom at the time of the Duanwujie festival, are associated with fertility and were worn as amulets by women. The brilliant red colour of the pomegranate flowers is also the colour of joy.
A slightly smaller Wanli wucai dish decorated with a similar figure of Zhong Kui standing sword raised to dispatch the poisonous creatures is in the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 51, no. 47). The current dish also relates to somewhat larger Wanli wucai dishes in the collections of the Percival David Foundation and the Tianminlou Foundation (illustrated by R. Scott & R. Kerr in Ceramic Evolution in the Middle Ming Period, V&A and Percival David Foundation, London, 1994, p. 22, no. 25; L.A. Cort & J. Stuart, Joined Colors, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1993, p. 130, no. 57, respectively), which have the theme of the Five Poisonous Creatures on the back and another aspect of the Duanwujie festival - dragon boat races - on the interior.