The inscription, Linxian Dianyang er li..cun zhuren..dai..liuli wa yi qian, may be translated, 'The mayor of..village two li from Dianyang in Linxian county..replaced..one thousand water-soaked tiles'.
The inscription seems to infer that this is one of the tiles made to replace water-damaged tiles of a building, probably a temple, in Linxian, which lies in an historically important area of North China, a few miles west of the old Shang dynasty capital, Anyang. This region is today known as Zhengde Prefecture, the most northerly part of Henan province.
Similar angular rock formations can be seen on a fahua-glazed tileworks architectural fitting of Guanyin seated in a grotto, from Yangcheng, Shanxi province, dated to the first year of Wanli (1573) and illustrated by J. Harrison-Hall, Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, London, 2001, pp. 529-530, no. 18:23. The author notes, p. 518, that the Ming dynasty was the golden age of tile production, with many manufacturing centers, and large groups of itinerant tile workers moving between the provinces seeking building projects and setting up kilns near building sites. Also, after 1536 all ranks of society were permitted to erect Confucian shrines for ancestor worship leading to a proliferation of such shrines.