This is a rare pair of jars, which have retained their covers. They are decorated with a colourful and auspicious design of butterflies and gourd vines, which bear both flowers and fruit. A Qianlong chi dragon handled vase with the same gourd and butterfly design, but on a pale turquoise ground, was included in the exhibition Zhongguo ming tao zhan, Tokyo, 1992, no. 143. An identical dragon-handled vase was also sold in these Rooms on 6th June 1988, lot 103. A similarly decorated meiping vase is in the collection of the Shanghai Museum (illustrated in Chugoku Toji Zenshu, vol. 21, colour plate 125). The same choice of motifs also appears on a vase decorated in doucai technique in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing (illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 38 - Porcelains in Polychrome and Contrasting Colours, Commercial Press, Hong Kong, 1999, p. 288, no. 262).
Butterflies are a favourite motif on Chinese enamelled porcelain. Not only are they visually attractive, they also provide a homophone for the word die meaning to duplicate. Hence, if they are included in an auspicious design, they serve to suggest a duplication of the auspicious wish. In this case they are combined with gourds, which due to the fact that they have many seeds are regarded as symbolising fertility. Dried gourds were used as vessels to contain medicine, alcohol and food, and thus they are also associated with plenty and with good luck. Gourds were also favoured by gardeners, who cultivated them into particular forms. The Kangxi Emperor (AD 1662-1722), for example, set aside a part of the imperial garden for growing gourds into moulds bearing intaglio decoration, so that the designs would be transferred to the fully-grown gourds. The decoration on these jars reflects both the interest in gourds as plants, and also the fact that this design provides a repeated wish for many children, for abundance, and for good fortune.