The importance of literati circles is emphasized in this collaborative 17th century painting. According to the inscriptions, the rendition of a scholar, crane, and banana tree was created as a gift for the scholar Hsi-chih by seven different literati artists. Five scholars have painted a separate element emblematic of literati values, signed their names and affixed their personal seals. The colophones were added by friends Wen Ts'ung-chien and Shao Mi. The literaus is shown in typical Ming period scholars robe, enjoying nature in the presence of a crane, the Taoist symbol of longevity. Intellectual circles were very important to China's scholar class. Composed of highly educated government officials, teachers, writers, painters, poets, and philosophers, they were important social and cultural networks.
Matteo Ricci was befriended soon after his arrival in China in 1582 by influential members of China's scholar class. The cartographer official, Wang Pan, and "certain scholars of Kwangtung" were the first to suggest that Ricci make a map of his travels. Other scholar friends, including the officials Wu Tso-hei and Li Wo-ts'un, the astrologer, Li Ying-shi, and Hsu Kuang-ch'i who worked with Ricci in translating the Confucian classics. These men respected Ricci as an intellectual, an accomplished man of science and letters, who they were willing to promote and invite into their circles.