Ewers of this type belong to a group of ritual vessels that was specially commissioned by the Qing Court for placement on Buddhist altars for ceremonial use. Its unusual shape with its broad mouth rim and lack of a handle was inspired by Tibetan metal examples that were made as containers for the storage of Sacred Water and used during Buddhist ceremonies. Geng Baochang illustrates a drawing of this type of ewer in Ming Qing Ciqi Jianding, 1993, p. 266, pl. 454, no. 9, and states that, as recorded in the Tai'an Gazetteer, these benpa hu or Tibetan vases, also known as zangcao ping, 'herbal storage jar', were used in the ceremonies carried out at the Taishan mountain temple in Shandong province from the Qianlong period onwards. No other blue and white ewer of this exact design has been recorded.
Compare to a green-ground famille rose example of the same shape and design in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by R. Kerr, Chinese Ceramics, Porcelain of the Qing Dynasty 1644-1911, London, 1986, p. 115, no. 101; and a gold-ground ewer from the Hong Kong Museum of Art, illustrated in The Wonders of the Potter's Palette, Qing Ceramics from the Collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1984, p. 113, no. 68. A Qianlong doucai version of this form on a white ground is in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and illustrated by He Li, Chinese Ceramics, London, 1996, p. 295, no. 612.
Other comparable examples include the four variations of the same shape, but with slightly different decorative designs, illustrated in Monarchy and Its Buddhist Way, Tibetan-Buddhist Ritual Implements in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1999, p. 189, no. 95; a green and gold example in the National Palace Museum, Taipei illustrated in Emperor Ch'ien Lung's Grand Cultural Enterprise, Taipei, 2002, p. 50, no. 1-38; and an underglazed-blue ewer decorated with iron-red bats and dragons, illustrated in Chinese Porcelain, The S.C. Ko Tianminlou Collection, Hong Kong, 1987, part I, no. 118, sold in Christie's Hong Kong, 28 November 2006.