The Chinese have long enjoyed the sound of crickets. During the Tang dynasty (618-907), people began keeping crickets in their homes, and by the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), it had become a scholarly pastime. By the eighteenth century, many writings existed describing the different varieties of crickets and their care.
During the winter months, crickets were kept in gourd containers like this, which were warmer than the ceramic ones used in summer. This gourd has an engraved design burnt into the surface with a heated stylus. The outdoor scene depicts a group of scholars enjoying tea and discussing books.