This type of master mold was used in the making of gourd cricket cages. Master molds are extremely rare and apparently only four examples of this type appear to be recorded. They were typically constructed by cutting a section of hard, finely grained wood into seven or nine sections along its length. These sections were glued together, turned on a lathe and carved with the final design. The master mold was extended above the limits of the vessel to allow the sections to be firmly held together. A thin coating of separator was applied and the master mold was then covered with clay, which was allowed to dry, forming the secondary mold. The central portion of the master mold was then removed, followed by each of the side segments. The secondary mold was then fired and fitted around a growing fruit, forcing it to form according to the carved pattern. For a further discussion of both master molds and clay secondary molds, see H. Moss and G. Tsang, Chinese Decorated Gourds, International Asian Antiques Fair, Hong Kong, 18-21 May 1983, pp. 56-8. For another example of a seven-part master mold decorated with a scholar and attendant in a boat by a small pavilion, see Wang Shixiang, The Charms of the Gourd, Hong Kong, 1983, p. 302, no. 120.
The quail (anchun) is a pun on the Chinese word for peace (an). The presence of two quail would double the meaning, and the rebus formed by the presence of two quail amongst millet can be interpreted as suisui ping an, 'may there be peace year after year', or shuang an jiahe, 'may there be peace and a good harvest'.