Compare the similar stained-ivory double gourd-shaped example in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Ming Qing Shinei Chenshe, Beijing, 2004, p. 120, no. 113, where it is referred to as a brush washer. (Fig. 1) Other comparable examples include one dated late 18th century illustrated in Selected Ivory Carvings from the Sir Victor Sassoon Chinese Ivories Trust, Philipps, London, 9-20 November 1999, no. 19, and one of melon shape, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - Small Refined Articles of the Study, Shanghai, 2009, no. 99. As with the present tray the melon is borne on a vine and has insects carved in relief.
In Arts from the Scholar's Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, p. 248, G. Tsang and H. Moss, in discussing no. 242, a small ivory tray carved with fruiting branches and bats, propose that small ivory trays of this type may have been used in a poetic drinking game.