The imagery of numerous scholars gathering together to enjoy the pleasures of drinking and poetry composition originated from the famous preface by Wang Xizhi (A.D. 307-65) bearing the title Lanting Xu, 'Preface (written) at the Orchid Pavilion'. This ideal prevailed throughout Chinese history to become a widespread theme that manifested in painting and works of art.
Cf. three elongated oblong-form boxes from the mid Ming period also decorated with scenes of scholars, illustrated in Carved Lacquer in Collection of the Palace Museum, Wenwu chubanshe, 1985, pls. 111, 146, and 149.