The decoration on this exquisite bowl is based on the story of the Chinese court lady, Wang Zhaojun, who came to the Han palace as a concubine. She failed to bribe the court painter Mao Yanshou, who painted an unflattering portrait of her, so she was not chosen as a consort by the emperor. She was then forced to marry a barbarian king in order to preserve peace between China and the Eastern Xiongnu, an ancient nomadic-based state or confederation located north of China at the time. It was not until she was about to be sent way that the emperor realized how beautiful she really was, but it was too late. The story is told in the early 14th century drama: Han Gong Qiu (Autumn of the Han Palace, often called The Sorrow of Han), by Ma Zhiyuan (1250-1321), and earlier in the 11th century poem by Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072). On the bowl Wang Zhaojun is shown seated wistfully in a tent with her lute held tightly in her arms, while a barbarian escort and a horse wait outside. It is to the accompaniment of this lute, or pipa, that she sings of her longing for her homeland.