A very similar tray of the same size in the Qing Court collection is illustrated in The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum - 46 - Lacquer Ware of the Qing Dynasty, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 117, no. 83, where it is attributed to the mid-Qing dynasty. The same central motif can also be seen on a petal-barbed 'lotus'-shaped polychrome box similarly executed in the tianqi (filled-in) and qiangjin (engraved gold) techniques, also in the Qing Court collection and dated to the Qianlong period, illustrated ibid., pp. 128-29, no. 91.
The motifs decorating this tray are very auspicious. The character chun (spring), is an auspicious metaphor for eternal youth. Combined with the overlaying roundel of Shoulou, the God of Longevity, who symbolizes long life, the box would have represented wishes for eternal youth. These combined with the other imagery of the dragons amidst clouds, the rays rising from the bowl of 'treasures', and the bats around the sides, add to the aupicious nature of the tray. This popular Daoist subject was first seen in carved lacquer during the Jiajing period (1522-1566), a reflection of the Jiajing emperor's intense interest in Daoism and eternal life. A multi-colored lacquer box carved in the center with the same subject, of Jiajing date, in the Qing Court collection, is illustrated in The Complete Treasures of the Palace Museum - 47 - Lacquer Wares of the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 176, pl. 134. This motif was revived during the reign of the emperor Qianlong, but usually in carved lacquer, like the Jiajing prototypes. Two of these carved lacquer boxes in the Qing Court collection, both dated to the mid-Qing dynasty, are illustrated ibid., vol. 46, pl. 59, in yellow lacquer, and no. 61, in polychrome lacquer. Tianji and qiangjin lacquer pieces with this design appear to be very rare.