The mark written in Manchu may be read, Manju ambal/wehiyehe abkai jakuci (?) aniya, which may be translated, 'Eighth (?) year (1743) of the Qianlong (reign) of the Great Qing (dynasty)'.
The poems on the vase describe the 'Southern Imperial Garden', and the scenes so finely carved on the vase may depict one of the rare visits of Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, to visit sages and emperors in the Middle Kingdom. The peaches carried by the attendants would then refer to the 'peaches of immortality' which were grown in Xiwangmu's garden.
Lacquer carving was re-introduced during the early Qianlong period and was done in the palace workshops. Other workshops produced bamboo and jade wares, some of which were carved in the same exacting style and with similar types of decoration as seen on the present vase.
A dark red lacquer hu finely carved with equally rich scenes of the Feast of the Immortals on Mount Kunlun, which was attended by Xiwangmu, was sold in these rooms, 24 March 2004, lot 14. Like the present hu it had bronze animal-head handles, in the shape of elephant rather than stag heads, and it had a Qianlong six-character mark inscribed on the metal base. Another related pair with garlic-head mouths was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 26-27 April 1998, lot 570.