This is the largest known, and one of the most elaborate, of a series of snuff bottles from the nineteenth century imitating wine jars in protective basketwork.
The characters on the bottle represent pieces in Chinese chess. There are some anomalies, however. Shuai ? (‘General’) is miswritten as shi ? (a word that can refer to soldiers but is not the name of a chess piece); moreover, while shuai normally is used only for the General on the red side, this bottle uses the name in both colours. Similarly, for Elephants, Cannons, and Soldiers, only the names of the red team (xiang ??pao ??bing ?) are used on this bottle, not the names for the corresponding black pieces (xiang ??pao ??zu ?). Perhaps the designer of this bottle understood that a simple array of all the names of the fourteen pieces in black and red would be too sober for a wine jar—less interesting than a random pattern that is reminiscent of the board game.