Under the reign of Emperor Qianlong, who collected more than a million of works of art and antiquities, imperial workshops crafted a significant variety of treasure boxes (baibao he) in order to store the most precious objects of the Forbidden City collections. The craftsmen challenge their imagination and technicity to create boxes in noble material.
The composition on this treasure box is very auspicious and is linked to the imperial iconography. The center of the box is engraved with a stylized longevity character shou. This decoration is related with the peach design, which is the fruit of longevity in China. The large Buddhist swastika (wan) on the top of the box is a homophone of the Chinese word “ten thousand” or “infinity” (wan 萬). The association of wan pattern and shou character is a wish of “ten thousand longevities without boundary” only for emperors and empresses.
The bats are also a very auspicious design because there is a pun between bats fu 蝠) and blessings (fu 福). When bats are hovering above waves, it is a wish of having a “ sea of blessings ”.
Classics of the Forbidden City: The Imperial Packing Art of Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2007, p. 162.