The lacquer foundation of this tray consists of three color layers: yellow, green, and red. By carving down to varying depths the artisan was able to create a polychrome effect. Called ti-ts'ai
(carved colors), the technique had been available since Sung, but it wasn't until the Chia-ching reign (1522-66) that it became popular, reflecting perhaps the taste for colorful overglaze porcelain that marked this era.
The interior of the tray is carved with two sinuous, five-claw dragons with horns, whiskers, and bushy tails. They confront a yin-yang symbol set within a flaming shou (longevity) character. The two long sides depict two dragons in profile confronting a flaming pearl; the two short sides feature single dragons chasing the famous pearl of wisdom. This style of carved dragon, in which the creature can be seen from several perspectives and the snouts have an almost independent existence, remained popular through the Wan-li reign (1573-1619).