Snuff bottle - ROM2005_3766_1


Snuff bottle

Medium:Carved serpentine
Geography: China
Date: mid 18th-19th Century
Period: Qing Dynasty
4.6 x 4 cm
Object number: 983.135.12
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Dorothy Hoover
On view
Gallery Location:Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art

This small bottle was used for storing snuff, a finely ground tobacco inhaled through the nose. While there are accounts of smoking tobacco in China from the early 17th century, there is no official record of snuff until 1684, when it was among gifts presented to the Kangxi emperor by European missionaries. The habit of snuff taking immediately became popular at court and miniature decorative bottles were specially designed to hold small quantities. As the practice spread beyond the court, the demand for snuff bottles grew, fashioned from almost any material that could be formed in the shape of a bottle.

"A Chinese is seldom seen without his snuff bottle, which is of oval construction and less than two inches [5 cm] in length, the stopper having a small spoon attached similar to that for cayenne pepper, with which a portion of snuff is laid on the left hand, at the lower joint of the thumb, and thus lifted to the nose." (From The Chinese: A General Description of China and its Inhabitants, by John Francis Davis, 1840.)

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