For a discussion about the various themes of longevity on this box, see the footnote of lot 190 of the present sale.
Qing dynasty boxes of this design were inspired by Jiajing period examples (1522-1566) like the one included in the Hong Kong O.C.S exhibition, 2000 Years of Chinese Lacquer, Art Gallery, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 24 September - 21 November 1993, pp.120-1, no. 61. It is interesting to note that the later Qianlong examples were specifically commissioned to emulate the quality and elaborate use of the different lacquer colours on the Ming prototype. These boxes were so admired by the Qianlong Emperor that he ordered many copies during his reign. They were frequently used to hold food presented as a ceremonial gift at the lunar new year or for birthdays. Similar boxes of this type are illustrated in Zhongguo qi qi quan ji (A Compendium of Chinese Lacquer), vol. 6: Qing Dynasty, Fuzhou, 1993, p. 182, pl. 213. The shape of the bowl on the cover, in particular, is very similar to that on another box of larger size (44 cm.) in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, illustrated by M. C. Beach, "The Freer Gallery of Art", Orientations, May 1993, p. 69, fig. 6. Another larger box was included in the Special Exhibition of Covered Boxes from East Asia, Izumishi Kuboso Museum, Japan, 1984, p. 72, no. 110. Like the present box, all of the ones mentioned have similar figural panels around the sides.