Zhou Honglai was among the finest of the artists who specialized in micro-engraving at the end of the Qing dynasty. He worked mostly on glass, but occasionally on porcelain, such as the example illustrated by Viviane Jutheau, Guide du collectionneur de tabatieres chinoises, p. 95, and also illustrated by Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, Snuff Bottles of the Ch'ing Dynasty, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1978, no. 244. A native of Baimen (modern day Nanjing), Zhou's works are inscribed as made at other places, including Hangzhou, which he describes visiting. Zhou was certainly a scholar and, like Ding Erzhong, practiced his art for a number of different patrons, as well as giving bottles as gifts. In Moss et. al. A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 5, Glass, his works are discussed under nos. 1049-1056, and his career, according to dated works, spanned the years from 1895 (A Congregation of Snuff Bottle Connoisseurs, The Tsui Museum of Art, no. 60) to 1909 (the porcelain example cited above). The glass used for the present bottle, as well as the form, is typical of that used so often by Zhou, and we can only assume that he had them made. The origins of the glass are suggested by a bottle in the Bloch Collection illustrated by Moss et. al., A Treasury of Chinese Snuff Bottles, Vol. 5, Glass, no. 1054.
Among Zhou's popular series of famous and favourite texts, this is an exception in being a copy of an inscription on an ancient bronze vessel. Such vessels were of great interest to the literati in the Qing dynasty, and particularly towards the latter part, when scholars became increasingly interested in the evolution of ancient scripts and helped to re-introduce them into popular use.