This rare dish or tray is of the elongated quatrefoil form that is often referred to in Chinese as being the shape of a begonia flower (qiuhaitang). A set of five amber-glazed earthenware stacking boxes of this form was excavated from a Liao tomb of the 11th or early 12th century at Jiefangyingzi, Inner Mongolia (illustrated in Gilded Splendor - Treasures of China's Liao Empire (905-1125), Asia Society, New York, 2006, pp. 348-9, nos. 112a-e). The current dish has low sides and a flattened rim with raised edge, of the type that is also seen on an approximately rectangular silver tray excavated from a Liao tomb belonging to a princess and her husband from the State of Chen, which was excavated in 1986 at Qinglong in Inner Mongolia (illustrated in Liao Chenguo gongzhu mu, Wenwu chubanshe, Beijing, 1993, p. 43, fig. 25:3 and pl. VIII:4). This same type of rim is often seen on Jin dynasty white porcelains from the Ding kilns of northern China. Several Jin dynasty examples of circular Ding ware dishes with similar rims are preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and three typical examples are illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji 9 Ding yao, Shanghai renmin meishu chubanshe, 1981, nos. 103, 104 and 105. The dishes illustrated as nos. 103 and 104 also share with the current silver vessel a finely depicted 'classic' scroll around the flattened rim. A similar scroll can also be seen moulded around the straight rim of a Jin dynasty Ding ware bowl (illustrated ibid., no. 108). This close correlation between a silver vessel and those of white Ding ware is not surprising since a number of scholars have suggested that some of the white vessels found in tombs were placed there as less expensive substitutes for silver. The use of the 'classic' scroll on silver appears to be quite rare before the Song dynasty, but a version of the scroll produced by chasing rows of tiny indentations, as on the current silver dish, can be seen on the rim and foot of a Song dynasty octagonal silver and gilt cup excavated in Fujian province in 1980 (illustrated in Zhongguo meishu quanji - gongyi meishu bian 10 Jin, yin, boli, falangqi, Beijing 1987, p. 45, no. 95). Perhaps more significantly, a similar scroll produced by chasing rows of tiny indentations provides the background decoration on a silver Liao crown exhibited in Noble Riders from Pines and Deserts - The Artistic Legacy of the Qidan, Art Museum, The University of Hong Kong, 2004, pp. 64-5, no. I:2.
The inclusion of realistically depicted chrysanthemums, like those amongst which the pair of phoenixes appear to fly on the current dish, was a relatively new introduction into the Chinese decorative arts repertoire when this dish was made. Prior to this time lotus and peony had dominated floral decoration. However it is significant that chrysanthemums appear on silver gilt items from the Liao tomb of the princess of Chen and her husband, mentioned above (see Liao Chenguo gongzhu mu, op. cit., p. 71, fig. 45:8). Chrysanthemums also appear as decoration on Liao sancai-glazed ceramics, such as the square dish excavated in 1958 from a Liao dynasty tomb dated to AD 1089 at Xigushan, Jinxixian, Liaoning province (illustrated in Complete collection of Ceramic Art unearthed in china - 2 - Tianjing, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Science Press, Beijing, 2008, p. 60, no. 60), and a large round dish exhibited in Noble Riders from Pines and Deserts - The Artistic Legacy of the Qidan, op. cit., pp. 346-7, no. VII:22. Amongst these Liao sancai wares are also a number of shallow quatrefoil dishes with similar flattened rim with raised edge and 'classic' scroll decoration as that on the current silver dish (illustrated ibid., p. 59, no. 59 and p. 134, no. 134).