Gilt-lacquered chests of this type, decorated in gesso with dragons and/or phoenixes, appear to be part of a group of imperial furnishings and accoutrements which were used to hold both seals and jade tablets. An example of the former, decorated in a very similar fashion to the present chest, although without the elaborate raised silver bosses applied to the edges, is illustrated in Imperial Life in the Qing Dynasty: Treasures from the Shenyang Palace Museum, China, Singapore, 1989, p. 8. Similarly decorated, though smaller, yellow-ground chests used to hold jade tablets are illustrated ibid., p. 28.
For two very similar red lacquer chests on their original stands, shown in situ in the Jiao Tai Palace, see The Life of Emperor Qianlong, Macau, 2002, no. 1. In the published examples one can see pearl finials rising from the medallions on the cover, suggesting the present example once exhibited the same design.