Snuff bottle - ROM2005_3767_1


Snuff bottle

Medium:Worked and polished jade
Geography: China
Date: mid 18th-19th Century
Period: Qing Dynasty
6.2 x 3.7 cm
Object number: 983.135.29
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.

In the case of this bottle, the appearance of the stone has been altered by heating and staining. The low relief carved decoration shows three tigers under a pine tree. The pine tree represents winter and is a symbol of longevity.

"I have stayed in the Huai river area for a long time, and have seen that great officials and prominent merchants all consider bottles of white jade and malachite - green jade - as the most valuable ones. Apparently they are not aware of the fact that snuff bottles were originally made of glass, all others being later creations." (Zhao Zhiqian, 1829-1884, scholar and official.)

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