Snuff bottles were used by the Chinese during the Qing Dynasty to contain powdered tobacco. Smoking tobacco was illegal during the Dynasty, but the use of snuff was allowed because the Chinese considered snuff to be a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, headaches and stomach disorders. Therefore, snuff was carried in a small bottle like other medicines. The snuff bottle is comparable to the snuff box used by Europeans.
Tobacco was introduced to the court in Beijing some time during the mid- to late-16th century. It was originally smoked in pipes before the establishment of the Qing Dynasty. The use of snuff and snuff bottles spread through the upper class, and by the end of the 17th century it had become a part of social ritual to use snuff. This lasted through most of the 18th century.
Eventually, the trend spread into the rest of the country and into every social class. It was common to offer a pinch of snuff as a way to greet friends and relatives. Snuff bottles soon became an object of beauty and a way to represent status. The highest status went to whoever had the rarest and finest snuff bottle. The peak of snuff bottle manufacturing was during the 18th century.
The use of snuff increased and decreased with the rise and falls of the Qing Dynasty and died away soon after the establishment of the Republic of China. However, replica snuff bottles are still being made, and can be purchased in souvenir shops, flea markets and museum gift shops.
Original snuff bottles from the Qing period are a desirable target for serious collectors and museums. A good bottle has an extra quality over and above its exquisite beauty and value: that is touch. Snuff bottles were made to be held and so, as a rule, they have a pleasant tactile quality.
The size of a snuff bottle is small enough to fit inside the palm. Snuff bottles were made out of many different materials including porcelain, jade, ivory, wood, tortoise shell, metal and ceramic, though probably the most commonly used material was glass. The stopper usually had a very small spoon attached for extracting the snuff. Though rare, such bottles were also used by women in Europe in Victorian times, with the bottles typically made of cut glass.
Chinese snuff bottles were typically decorated with paintings or carvings, which distinguished bottles of different quality and value. Decorative bottles were, and remain, time-consuming in their production and are thus desirable for today's collectors.
In recent years a popular method of snuff insufflations has been the snuff bullet. A simple snuff bullet consists of a small bottle with a plug in the base, a rotatable dosing chamber and a hole on the top. More advanced snuff bullets have variable dosing settings. They can be made of plastic, glass or metal.
SOURCE : english.visitbeijing.com.cn
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