Lacquerware vessels were widely used for food and drink in the palaces and households of the Han aristocracy. Made from the sap of a type of sumac, lacquer was difficult and expensive to produce, but greatly treasured. Light, durable, impervious to water, and conducive to painted decoration, it had nearly replaced inlaid bronze and gilt vessels by the end of Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 220).
The style of this dish, with its thick wood core and its painted designs of clustered hooks, curls, and triangles, is nearly identical to lacquer vessels excavated from a Western Han tomb at Mao chai-yuan in Hupei province. Unfortunately, lacquer often does not survive burial well and relatively few well-preserved examples from the ancient period exist.