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 Qing Dynasty.
There 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
was considered perfectly acceptable, as it was thought to
have valuable medicinal applications.
Tobacco was thought to be a great way to treat colds,
headaches, stomach disorders and many other symptoms and
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
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
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 owner.
Snuff 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.