Jade carvings of pigs rendered with bold angular cuts and in reclining poses were made throughout the Han and Six Dynasties period and form an important group of jade carvings that were used both in daily life and for burial. Made in the so-called Han badao ('Han eight cuts') style, whereby the design is created by a small number of deep cuts, jade pigs of this type are known with perforations that run from below the snout through the tail ridge, or pierced under the snout and on the tail, such as the present pair. Although the function of these jade pigs remains a matter of speculation, numerous examples were found in burial sites, often held in the hands of the diseased.
Similarly carved jade pigs excavated from Han dynasty tombs include a pair unearthed from Tomb 104 at Baonudun, Hanjiang, Jiangsu province, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Jades Unearthed in China, Beijing, 2005, vol. 7, pl. 141; one from Youxiangxincun, Huayin, Shaanxi province, illustrated ibid., vol. 14, pl. 170, together with a pair from the northern suburbs of Xi'an, Shaanxi province, pl. 169, and one from Hongmiaopo, Xi'an, pl. 168; and a further pig from Tomb 1 at Dongyuan, Bozhou, Anhui province, published ibid., vol. 6, pl. 153. Compare also jade carvings of pigs in private collections, such as six pairs from the Yang-te-t'ang and Piao-te-Hsuan collections, included in the Collectors' Exhibition of Archaic Chinese Jades, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1995, cat. nos 84-86 and 88-90; a pig from the Bei Shan Tang collection, included in the Min Chiu Society exhibition Chinese Jade Carving, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1983, cat. no. 121; another included in the exhibition Chinese Jades from Han to Ch'ing, Asia House Gallery, New York, 1980, cat. no. 15; and a further example in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in Ming Wilson, Chinese Jades, London, 2004, pl. 73.