The current example is very similar to a smaller aloeswood carving in the National Palace Museum, Taipei Collection, illustrated by James C.Y. Watt, Possessing the Past, Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, New York and Taipei, 1996, p. 528, pl. 325. These two examples both bear the same poem composed by the Qianlong Emperor on the subject matter of the 'Nine Elders of Fragrant Hill', in reference to the Tang poet Bai Juyi (772-846) and his group of friends, who in retirement resided at the Fragrant Hill Temple in the city of Luoyang. Instead of the poem inscribed on the reverse of the boulder as on the present example, the inscription on the National Palace Museum boulder appears on the main cliff face above the figures (fig. 1).
Both examples are inscribed with the same carver's name and the Xinyou cyclical date. According to the palace archives, Yang Weizhan began his career as a carver of ivories from Guangzhou, and during the early years of the Qianlong period he was drafted to the Zaobanchu, the imperial workshop in Beijing; and in 1741 he was instructed to carve the subject matter of the Nine Elders using aloeswood boulders, see op. cit., National Palace Museum, 2002, p. 54.