Chinese snuff bottles, as well as the tobacco
powder contained by the Chinese snuff bottles
were at the very core of a fashion whose
popularity had never before been experienced
in Chinaís extensive history.
Due to itís exceptional versatility
of style, technique and material, all in one
small object, as well as the fine
craftsmanship, these tiny masterpieces quickly
became one of the most notable representations
of the use of artistic skill throughout the
are many different beliefs as to who
introduced the use of tobacco to the Chinese.
I have read that the Russians, Manchu,
Portuguese, and the Jesuit Priests brought
tobacco to China. I would venture to say that
it is likely that different people, around the
same time, introduced it in different regions.
That time would be the early to mid 1600's.
legally, the smoking of tobacco was not
permitted, its use as snuff
was considered perfectly acceptable, as it was
thought to have valuable medicinal
Tobacco was thought to be a great way
to treat colds, headaches, stomach disorders
and many other symptoms and illnesses.
Powdered tobacco, as well as the
majority of other Chinese medications, was
dispensed in bottles, as opposed to the boxes
that were used in Europe.
snuff was originally only a luxury experienced
by the elite of the new Qing Dynasty house,
its popularity, along with the popularity of
the snuff bottle, became much more available
in and around the Beijing court by the close
of the seventeenth century. The heart of the
recognition of snuff and snuff bottles
remained in and around Beijingís court until
the end of the eighteenth century, developing
the use of snuff into a common social ritual
for the upper classes.
The snuff therefore had to be contained
in something that would contribute to this
newfound fashion, and therefore, large amounts
of art, taste and money were spent on the
acquisition of attractive snuff bottles.
Snuff bottles also started being used
for the attainment of favors, positions,
status as well as advancement in government.
the 1700's snuff increased in popularity among
the Chinese, which created a great demand for
Snuff Bottles. They became conversation pieces
and collectable items almost immediately. Collecting
snuff bottles became the newest nationwide
habit, and it spread to all of the social
classes with the actual snuff-taking, at the
very end of the eighteenth century. The finer
the snuff bottle, the more respected was its
bottles were made out of every material of
which the Chinese knew.
This included glass, porcelain, jade
and other hardstones, ivory, coral, lacquer,
amber, wood, etc. Click
here to read about Peking Glass snuff bottles.