This rare miniature hu vessel exemplifies the highly skilled gilding and incising techniques developed in the Han dynasty. The rich ornamentation expresses a scene of the Daoist mystic realm populated with turtledoves and animals amidst cloud scrolls. The cloud scroll was an often used background pattern in the Han dynasty, which created the atmosphere of the Daoist land of immortality. In the Han dynasty, according to Fan Ye's History of the Later Han Dynasty (Hou Han shu li yiji), published in China in the fifth century, the turtledove was a symbol of longevity as it was known that the bird that would not choke. There are many surviving examples of Han bronze turtledove finials which were originally attached to the wangzhang, a rod given by the Emperor to people who were older than 70. The Daoist theme on this present vessel is further emphasized by its bear-form legs. The bear was another popular motif in Han iconography and often related to stories found in the Shanhaijing. A small Han bronze tripod vessel with incised decoration of slightly different form is illustrated in Ancient Chinese Bronzes, J.J. Lally & Co., 2011, no.10; compare also a gilt and incised incense burner in the Nanjing Museum illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua dacidian: qing tong juan (Grand Dictionary of Gems of Chinese Cultural Relics: Bronzes), Shanghai, 1995, p. 322, no. 1155.