Remains of Chinese baskets have been found in neolithic sites (5,000-3,000 b.c.), and it is likely that, with the introduction of lacquer during the same period, some baskets were coated with lacquer for preservation. Lacquered basketry was especially popular in South China during the late Ming dynasty (seventeenth century), but it was never produced in the official workshops of the imperial court.
Supported on a high flared foot, this large, circular box is painted on its cover with a landscape scene of a stag, doe, ling-chih fungus, butterfly, and a magpie perched on a flowering shrub. All are auspicious symbols and they probably came from a pattern book. Oil-based paints were often used in this type of polychrome painting because pigments like blue, pink, and white did not mix well with lacquer. On the lid is a four-character inscription in gold that reads, "May you receive official remuneration and noble rank." The lid interior and base have the same obscure four-character inscription in red lacquer, probably an owner's mark, and a partially obscured gold inscription dating the box to 1688.