The present boulder belongs to a group of jade carvings that first appeared in the late Ming to early Qing dynasties, depicting luohan (disciples of Buddha known as arhats in Sanskrit) within a mountainous grotto setting. A selection of the eighteenth-century versions is inscribed with dedicatory or poetic inscriptions linking them to the Qianlong emperor (1736-1795). It is likely that these carvings in jade were inspired by a woodblock print included in the eighteenth-century catalogue Gu yu tu pu of a jade carving of a luohan in a grotto. It is thought that the craftsmen of the time produced sets of jade carvings showing the sixteen or eighteen luohan. The current carving appears to show Kalika, also known as Qixiang luohan or "Elephant Riding Luohan", seated beside a bundle of scrolls.
See two slightly smaller comparable jade carvings of luohan seated against a backdrop of rock faces in the collection of the British Museum, London, illustrated by Jessica Rawson in Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, London, 1995, pp. 410-11, no. 29:19 and fig. 1, where, p. 410, the author also gives an enlightening discussion on the context and significance of this group of carvings.
Compare, also, with three jade carvings in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, one of Bodhidharma and two of luohan in a rocky setting, illustrated in Later Chinese Jades: Ming Dynasty to Early Twentieth Century from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, 2007, pp. 284-86, nos. 315, 316 and 317.
An inscribed jade carving of the luohan Kanaka seated in a grotto is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession number 02.18.640. Another imperially inscribed jade luohan grotto depicting the sixteenth luohan, Abhedya, was sold at Christie's, Hong Kong, 30 May 2016, lot 3021.