The current brush pot, though unsigned, displays spectacular craftsmanship with intricately rendered details and complex composition, and was undoubtedly the work of a master carver. The two men depicted on the brush pot are Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao, who, according to legend, encountered and married two female immortals in the Tiantai Mountain while collecting medicinal herbs. Six months later, they returned home, only to discover that six generations had passed while they were away. This story was first recorded in the Tang Dynasty in Taiping Guangji and was made popular in the Yuan dynasty with several versions of theatre plays.
Compare to a bamboo parfumier carved with the same subject-matter by the Ming dynasty master Zhu Ying, excavated in a tomb in Baoshan County in Shanghai. Despite sharing the same theme, the excavated parfumier depicts another scene in which the two protagonists are playing chess with one of the female immortals, while the other immortal stands underneath a gate inscribed with the characters 'Tiantai'. The simpler and more fluid carving of this parfumier is markedly different from that of the current brush pot, which is notably more elaborate and layered. A rubbing of the excavated parfumier is illustrated in Ming Qing zhuke yishu, Taipei, 1999, pl. 11.
The current brush pot is stylistically very close to the example signed by Gu Jue in the Seattle Art Museum (fig.1), especially the distinct treatment of mountain rocks and trees.