Rectangular forms are especially rare in tixi or guri lacquer, but have been found in excavations. A rectangular panel decorated with black tixi lacquer with red underlayers, like the current example, was discovered in the cargo of a ship, which foundered off the Sinan coast of Korea in A.D. 1323, illustrated in Relics Salvaged from the Seabed off Sinan: Materials III, Seoul, 1985, pl. 134.
A rectangular black tixi lacquer box of slightly different proportions (13.4 x 11.1 x 8.5 cm.) and a different arrangement of scrolls, dated to the early Ming dynasty was exhibited in Osaka in 1991, illustrated by Hirano Kotoken, Chinese Lacquer Works, Osaka, pp. 74-5, no. 48. A lower, longer, rectangular red lacquer box (20 x 11.8 x 6 cm.) dated to the Yuan dynasty is now in the Metropolitan Museum, illustrated by J. Watt and B. Ford, East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1992, p. 49-50, no. 6. This box shares with the current example the design element of ruyi motifs which wrap around the corners of the form. This risky style of decoration required great skill and confidence, and was abandoned by later decorators, as can be seen on the Ming rectangular box in the Metropolitan Museum, illustrated ibid., p. 61, no. 15, which has a design element on either side of each corner, but leaves the corner edge plain.
The design on the current seal box has been carved through the layers of lacquer in contrasting colours. Although the appearance of the box is predominantly black, because the top layer of lacquer is black, the contrasting layers can be seen in the wide, U-shaped, carved lines of the design. The U-shaped profile of the carved lines is in keeping with the description in the 1388 text Gegu yao lun, The Essential Criteria of Antiquities, which states:
"Among ancient carved t'i-hsi (sic) wares, the most valuable is 'burnished purple', the more valuable pieces have burnished ground and show a reddish black colour. The bottom (of the incision) is like an inverted roof-tile, and (the wares) are lustrous, solid and thin" - Sir Percival David, Chinese Connoisseurship - The Ko Ku Yao Lun - The Essential Criteria of Antiquities, London, 1971, p. 144.
Carved marbled lacquer with a scrolling design similar to the current box was made at least as early as the Song dynasty. A mirror case made of lacquer decorated in this way was excavated from a Southern Song tomb in Wujin county, Jiangsu province in 1977/8, Wenwu, 1979, No. 3, pl. 2, no. 5.