Chinese Snuff Bottles (History, Value, Uses)


Both Chinese snuff bottles and the tobacco powder that was held inside Chinese snuff bottles were at the very heart of a fashion trend, the likes of which had never previously been seen in China throughout the country’s lengthy history. These tiny masterpieces quickly became one of the most notable representations of the application of artistic skill throughout the Qing Dynasty due to their exceptional versatility of style, technique, and material, all in one small object. Additionally, due to the fine craftsmanship, these miniature works of art were able to achieve this status.

Who exactly was the first person in Chinese history to start smoking tobacco? There are a lot of theories floating about about this. According to what I’ve read, the Russians, the Manchu, the Portuguese, and the Jesuit priests were the ones who first introduced tobacco to China. I would dare to say that it is probable that various persons brought it about the same period in different locations. This is a statement that I am making on the basis of speculation. The would place that era somewhere between the early and middle 1600s.

Although it was against the law to smoke tobacco at the time, its use in the form of snuff was not only accepted but encouraged due to the widespread belief that it has significant therapeutic potential. People used to believe that smoking tobacco was an effective treatment for a wide variety of ailments and symptoms, including the common cold, headaches, stomach issues, and many more. As contrast to the boxes that were utilised in Europe, China distributed powdered tobacco and the vast majority of other prescriptions in bottles. In Europe, powdered tobacco and the majority of other medications were distributed in boxes.

Even though snuff was initially only a luxury enjoyed by the upper-class members of the new Qing Dynasty house, its popularity grew along with the popularity of the snuff bottle toward the end of the seventeenth century, making it much more accessible in and around the Beijing court. Snuff bottles also became increasingly popular during this time period. To the very end of the eighteenth century, the recognition of snuff and snuff bottles was centred in and around Beijing’s court. This helped to grow the use of snuff into a widespread social practise for the upper classes. Therefore, the snuff needed to be stored in something that would add to this newly discovered trend. As a result, significant quantities of art, taste, and money were spent on the purchase of aesthetically pleasing snuff bottles. In addition, snuff bottles began to be used in the pursuit of favours, positions, and prestige, as well as for the purpose of advancing one’s career in government.

The use of snuff became much more common in China in the 1700s, which resulted in a rise in the demand for snuff bottles. Almost immediately, they were recognised as interesting topics of discussion and sought for as collectibles. At the tail end of the eighteenth century, consuming snuff became a popular pastime throughout the country, and the hobby of collecting snuff bottles quickly caught on among people of all socioeconomic backgrounds at the same time. The more elegant the snuff container, the more revered the owner of the bottle was.

The Chinese used every material at their disposal to fashion many types of snuff bottles. This includes things like glass and porcelain, jade and other types of hardstones, ivory and coral, lacquer, amber, and various types of wood. You may learn more about Peking Glass snuff bottles by clicking here.

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