Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Snuff Bottles

I've always found snuff bottles to be curious little objects. The artistry in some of them is quite impressive, but I never really took the time to learn much about them. This article has some good general information about them. Excerpt:
Chinese snuff bottles were only made in the Qing Dynasty, which started in 1644 and ended in 1911, and contrary to what some people think, they were used only for holding powdered tobacco, usually with some herbs and spices in it, which was inhaled through the nose. They were never used for opium; that’s a totally different thing.
They actually started in the imperial court. For the first hundred years of their existence, pretty much throughout the 18th century, tobacco was exceedingly expensive in China, so taking snuff was a habit. It was definitely something for the upper crust of the imperial family and the influential minority of China. It wasn’t until the 19th century that you see a diffusion to the general population.
I own two Chinese snuff bottles myself. One is layered and carved glass, given to me as a gift from a friend. The second is an inexpensive, porcelain, recently created (and therefore not genuine) bottle in the form of Tang Dynasty tea scholar Lu Yu (陆羽).

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