Frequently depicted in carved lacquer, peonies are important in East Asian art and are understood as symbols of royalty, rank, wealth, and honor. On this box, additional flowers (camellias, tree peonies, pomegranates, and chrysanthemums) are carved along the sides. This is one of several pieces in the collection carved with a six-character mark reading “Made during the reign of the Yongle Emperor” (Da Ming Yongle nian zhi ) on the bottom. Use of such marks, which are more commonly found in ceramics, began in the early fifteenth century and continued in all media into the twentieth. Works so marked are thought to have been produced for the court.
Inscription: Inscribed: Da Ming Yongle nian zhi 大明永樂年製 (made in the Yongle era of the great Ming)