The qilin, which can be seen seated on a rustic stool in the center of the present basin, is an auspicious symbol of longevity, fertility and wise administration, as it only appears during the reign of a benevolent ruler. It is also associated with the Confucian virtue of ren, as it is benevolent to all living creatures. When combined with a boy seated on its back, the qilin represents the bringing of illustrious sons.
A Wanli-marked wucai basin of similar shape, but decorated with designs of fish amidst aquatic plants, is illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, Tokyo, 1976, no. 919, and another example decorated with a fish design was sold at Sotheby's London, 15 December 1987, lot 161.