The Hundred Deer motif is referring to a long career in civil service, since the Chinese word lu for "deer" is a homophone for "emolument" or "civil service salary". The 'hundred bai deer motif' therefore represent the ultimate success in Imperial China - scholarly success and a long career in government service. The idea conveyed in the 'Hundred Deer' design is a wish for great wealth and success
The deer symbolizes immortality and is the companion of Shoulao, the God of Longevity, while the inclusion of peaches and lingzhi fungus in the decoration is often a further symbolic of longevity. It also represents filial piety which comes from the folk tale of Zhou Yanzi. This is a story of a young boy who tries to get milk from a deer to cure his ailing father. To achieve his goal he wears deer skin and joins a deer herd to gather milk.
Wanli jars of this design are rare although one blue-and-white jar and cover was formerly given to Queen Christina of Sweden (1626-1689) by the Portuguese Embassy in 1640, and is now in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm. It is illustrated in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, vol. 8, Tokyo, 1982, pl. 247.
Wanli jars decorated with the 'Hundred Deer' motif can be more readily found painted in the wucai enamels; for example see a jar in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in Minji meihin zuroku, vol. II, Tokyo, 1978, pl. 101; further two vases in Japan, one formerly in the Yokogawa collection published in the Illustrated Catalogue of Tokyo National Museum. Chinese Ceramics, vol. II, Tokyo, 1990, cat.no. 330, and the other in a private collection included in Sekai toji zenshu, vol. 14, Tokyo, 1976, fig. 218. A third wucai vase of this design, from the collection of Ernest Grandidier in the Musee Guimet, Paris, is published in Oriental Ceramics. The World's Great Collections, vol. 7, Tokyo, 1981, col. pl. 26.