The painting depicts a scene of Jewel Hill, near the Imperial kilns at Jingdezhen. The couplet, each of seven-character, reads:
Yijing wanyan yangjia zhuan,
liangshan cangcui huaping kai.
It may be translated as:
A winding path twists resembling a ram's horn,
twin emerald mountains peak like an open painted screen.
The inscription is preceded by a oval seal enclosing the two characters, Que Tao, a designation of the artist, and concludes with Han, 'brush', and Mo, 'ink', all in an iron-red enamel.
The designation, Que Tao, may be translated as 'Superintendent of Ceramics'. According to a paper given by Geng Baochang, Special Edition Commemorating the Tercentenary of Tang Ying's Birth', Jingdezhen Taoci, 1982, no. 2, Que tao is one of the many names used to sign on porcelain by Tang Ying, the well-known supervisor of the Imperial factory at Jingdezhen. Two examples of Tang Ying's seals are published by Geng Baochang, Mingqing Taoci Jianding, Ming and Qing Porcelains on Inspection, p. 291, pl. 496 and 497: the first, an inscribed brushpot of Guan-type glaze, and the other, an inscribed celadon-glazed brushpot of bamboo-form. The present vase is discussed by R. L. Hobson in Chinese Ceramics from Private Collection, The Ch'ing Dynasty, p. 200, where the author cites that 'Chüeh T'ao was a signature of the famous T'ang Ying', and that the inscription 'clearly connects it with the ceramic bureau (t'ao shu) in the Huan-tsui pavilion (ting) on the Jewel Hill (chu shan), i.e. with the Imperial Factory at Ching-tê Chen'.
Compare with another Tang Ying inscribed lavender-ground famille rose vase from the Mount Trust, enamelled on one side with mallow and chrysanthemum, and the other a poetic inscription followed by two-character, Que Tao, illustrated by Soame Jenyns, Later Chinese Porcelain: The Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1912), 1971, Pl. A; and was included in the exhibition, The Ceramic Art of China, Oriental Ceramic Society Jubilee Exhibition, 1971, pl. 153, no. 224. The Mount Trust vase has three seals arranged with oval seal, Pianyue, 'Crescent Moon', and ending with two square seals, Quetaoshi, 'Belong to Quetao', and Hanmo, 'Brush and ink'. These same seals are also found on an inscribed hexagonal vase in the Percival David Foundation, illustrated by R. Scott, Qing Porcelain - For the Imperial Court, 1998, p. 74, no.18.
It is known that Tang Ying composed a number of poems on Jewel Hill as a similar inscription recorded on Jewel Hill is written on one of a pair of slightly larger (19.3 cm. high) vases from the H R N Norton collection, sold in London, 5 November 1963, lot 212. Tang Ying was prolific in his writing, and S. Bushell notes in Oriental Ceramic Art, 1981, p. 206, that Tang Ying composed poems 'as he surveyed the surrounding scene from the top of the Jewel Hill at Ching-te-chen'. It has been suggested that the painting style and the calligraphy of the landscape on the present vase are comparable to examples of work in Tang Ying's own hand. See P. Lam, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 'Tang Ying (1682-1756) - The Imperial Factory Superintendent at Jingdezhen', pp. 73-4, fig. 9, for an Autumn landscape painting by Tang Ying; and fig. 10, a detail of calligraphy by Tang Ying, both in the Palace Museum collection, Beijing. The linear-form of the brushstrokes with characteristic pointed end tips of Tang Ying's calligraphic style may have been an attempt to emulate the Xia Chen stele of the Eastern Han Dynasty, ibid, p. 73.
Tang Ying's name also appears on a group of underglaze-blue documentary altar vessels. Cf. a pair of candlesticks in the Victoria and Albert Museum, given by Stephen Bushell's grand-daughter, illustrated by R. Kerr, Chinese Ceramics, Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1912, no. 45; and two altar vases, one from the British Rail Pension Fund, sold in Hong Kong, 16 May 1989, lot 39, and the other sold in these Rooms, the Imperial Sale, 30 April 2000, lot 593. The second altar vase records that Tang Ying was a native of Shenyang, Superintendent of Ceramic Production in Jiangxi, Junior Secretary of the Imperial Household Department, and concurrently Captain of the Banner of Chahar.
A vase in the same form as the present example and similarly enamelled with landscape from the collection of H M Knight, is illustrated in Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, 'The Arts of the Ch'ing Dynasty', pl. 78, no. 215. The vase lacks a reference to Tang Ying, yet it is inscribed with a poem in similar poetic style: 'With laughter, talk and climbing hills, we speed the hours away; till lengthening shadows on the peak, announce the close of day', op. cit., p. 64. Two other related 'landscape' vases of slightly larger size are published: the first, in the Freer Gallery, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, Kodansha series, vol. 9, col. pl. 26 (24.4 cm. high) with a six-character Qianlong reign mark; and the other example of 22.8 cm. high and unmarked from the British Museum, illustrated by Soame Jenyns, op. cit., 1971, pl. XCIII.