This bottle was sourced and carved in the town of Suzhou. Famous for its gardens and canals, Suzhou was one of the main cultural centers in Qing-dynasty China, attracting many painters, calligraphers, poets, musicians and other talented individuals. Among this group of scholars and artisans were those skilled in the lapidary art. As seen on the present bottle, these skilled artisans created a tour-de-force, exploiting the dramatically contrasting colors of the stone, carving them away and perforating them to create projecting rocks like those seen in Kunming. The white and black sections of stone are masterfully carved to envelope the figures in a vaporous white tone while the geese on the reverse joyfully swim in an inky black pond.
Holden discusses the beloved subject matter depicted on this bottle in her book, Rivers and Mountains Far From the World - The Rachelle R. Holden Collection, A Personal Commentary, New York, 1994, p. 205, where she identifies the scholar, depicted on this bottle, as "Mi Fu (1051-1107), the Northern Song poet, calligrapher, and painter. He was well-known for his hobby of collecting strange looking rocks. According to legend, he would put on his formal attire and bow to his favorite piece, a Taihu rock, with reverence, addressing it as his elder brother.”
A very close example to the present bottle, formerly in the collection of Lilla S. Perry (Chinese Snuff Bottles: The Adventures and Studies of a Collector, p. 104, nos. 85 and 87), is illustrated in Moss, Graham, Tsang, The Art of the Chinese Snuff Bottle, The J&J Collection, Volume I, pp. 69-70, no. 24. Three more black and white jade bottles from the same school are illustrated by R. Kleiner, Treasures from the Sanctum of Enlightened Respect: Chinese Snuff Bottles from the Collection of Denis Low, nos. 42-44. A small black and white example from the Alice B. McReynolds Collection is illustrated in B. Stevens, The Collector's Book of Snuff Bottles, no. 44.