The Xuande emperor ruled China from 1425-1434. He was the fifth emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). His rule was one of relative stability, and he devoted much of his time to painting and writing poetry, activities at which he was accomplished. As a painter he had a free brush style.
His paintings were often presented as gifts to favored members of the court; this painting, dated 1431, of a rat nibbling at lichee fruit is inscribed to a favorite eunuch.