The scenes on this cosmetic box (tebako) are from The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari), an early eleventh-century romantic novel by the Heian court lady Murasaki Shikibu. The tale recounts the fictional exploits of Prince Genji, the son of an emperor. A masterpiece of Japanese literature, the novel inspired generations of artists, including lacquer masters. The scenes depicted here are from one of the episodes where Genji orders two Chinese-style pleasure boats to be built for ladies of the court so that they may savour the beauty of nature in springtime. The cover shows ladies on a phoenix boat, while the interior tray shows them on a dragon boat.