The subject of a fish with lotus forms the rebus meaning '[May you have] abundance year after year'.
The form of the present bottle appears to be unique and it is very rare to find a fish, rather than flowers or fruit in a basket in designs from the Imperial workshops of the eighteenth century. The shaping of the glass to accommodate the surface decoration is both rare and intriguing, particularly where the artist has taken a certain license to clarify the design by having a single basket, but two handles, one visible on each side, rather than, as one would expect, a single handle running across one shoulder, the usual solution with such a design.
The popularity of baskets in general at the Court may arise from the probable symbolism of the basket (lanzi) which may suggest male children (nanzi), one of the three desires dear to the Chinese heart which are embodied in the term sanduo ('three plenties'). These are, duofu ('plenty of happiness'), duoshou ('plenty of years to live') and duonanzi ('plenty of male children'). The concept can be traced back to the 'Heaven and Earth' chapter in Zhuangzi (The Collected Works of Zhuangzi), compiled during the Warring States period.
There is a whole series of baskets of flowers or fruit which can be associated with the eighteenth-century Qing Court. The design is found on Imperial porcelain dishes enameled at Jingdezhen and at the Court from the Yongzheng period and on a range of snuff bottles attributable to the Palace workshops. Three of these are in the Bloch Collection. Two are of painted enamels on metal from the first half of the Qianlong period (R. Kleiner, The Bloch Collection, no. 4, and Chinese Snuff Bottles. A Miniature Art, no. 5), while the third is of the Guyue Xuan group, an Imperial group of the late Qianlong period certainly associated with, if not made at the Court (R. Kleiner, The Bloch Collection, no. 23, no longer attributed to the Ye family but to the earlier Guyue Xuan group instead). Others are found in glass overlay, often of several colors, ranging from an early example where the fruits are contained in a bowl rather than a basket to a spectacular mid-Qing double-overlay with begonias in a basket (Moss et. al., The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, nos. 362 and 395 respectively). Many others are known both of the Guyue Xuan group and in glass overlay, frequently of several colors which suits the design ideally. So many examples of the subject can be attributed to the Court or to Court influence that it is clearly established as a popular Imperial subject of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.