Already in Han times there was a tradition of placing paintings with public messages in audience halls, where they were seen by officials.  Current officials would then be reminded of past meritorious officials who had become moral exemplars.  In addition, paintings with political themes were sometimes presented to ministers on occasions of promotion and retirement

It is thought that Breaking the Balustrade may well have been done during Gaozong's first two decades on the throne when he was trying to lure scholars to serve his court.  The tree, rockery and use of white  is typical of the Southern Song.  Note also the skillful dramatization of the story; narrative elements have been compressed through staging.