This unusual tray was probably used to hold a special scroll.
The color palette and style of carving of the flower sprays is similar to that on the sides of a rectangular box and cover, illustrated in Karamono, Selections from the Tokugawa Art Museum, No. 2, Nagoya, Japan, 1997, p. 59, no. 108, dated to the Ming dynasty, 16th century. As is another lacquer scroll tray carved with birds and flowers, p. 91, no. 163, which is divided into two shallow, concave recesses on top. This double scroll tray is carved, however, in a different style and is in black lacquer only. See, also, the octagonal domed box and cover with similar style of carving of the panels on the sides and the same palette, also dated to the Ming dynasty, illustrated in Ancient Chinese Arts in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1989, no. 379.