Chinese snuff bottles
The Chinese snuff bottles were widely used during the Qing dynasty. The use of this bottle was the fashion that could not be equated to any other fashion that existed in the china long history. It became popular because of its extraordinary variety of materials techniques and style that was found in this object.
The use of these Chinese snuff bottles was started by the upper class and by the 17th century. These snuff bottles were first popular around the court in Beijing. The trend had spread to most people in the Qing dynasty and thus it became the social ritual to use snuff. These snuff bottle usually carried powdered tobacco.
Smoking tobacco during the reign of this dynasty was illegal but when smoked by use of the equipment it was legal. It was legal because the Chinese considered the use of this snuff could remedy conditions like colds, headaches and even he stomach disorder thus the snuff was carried in bottles which was later to be named snuff bottle. The use of the bottle came to be a sign of certain social status .a person with the rarest bottle was considered to come from the highest social status.
The Chinese snuff bottles use came to the peak at the 18th century. using snuff bottles was popular when the dynasty was strong and started to decline when the dynasty was weak. The end of the use was seen at the end of Qing dynasty when the republic of china came into place.
The Chinese snuff bottles were made to be held by the hand. This was possible because their size fit to the palm. The production was from different materials. These materials include: porcelain, jade, ivory, wood, tortoise shell, ceramic and from the metals. Common material that was used to make them was usually the glass.
The stopper was used to close the neck of the bottle so that the content in the bottle could not pour out when held. This stopper had a small spoon that was attached to it and it was used to scoop out the content from the bottle. These bottles were usually decorated from outside. Some bottles were painted inside. These paintings and carvings usually put a difference on the quality and the value of the bottle.decarated bottle usually took time in there production process. Even today the production of decorated bottles takes a lot of time. It is said the best bottle could take a mount to finish and the best craftsman could make a few bottles in the year.
The simple Chinese snuff bottles usually took a week to be finished. Even though these type of bottles take time in there production they are the most desirable bottles. The decorations consist of mostly Chinese art, motifs and symbols. The symbols used in decoration were derived from Chinese legends, history, religion, philosophy and superstition. The mostly common animal used is the dragon. The precious organs of Buddha are rarely used for decoration.
The decorations used on these Chinese snuff bottles usually had certain significance to the holder of the bottle. The object was used as a form of currency that that could be used to buy favours, positions and even advancement to the government. It became common gesture to offer a friend a pinch of snuff carried in the bottle. The symbol used usually directed someone towards bringing wealth, give good health, long life and even make the holder become immortal. The most commonly used decoration was that of a shou character that represented happiness and long life. The character was illustrated at right and this character was of the three star Gods. Another representation was that of 18 lohan who ware the personal disciples of Buddha. The use of any group of the many revered immortals in china. These wishes were mostly coded in the expression of the person presenting this bottle as a gift. From this we can see that the bottle held a lot of significance to the people of china. To them this bottle held there life, health and prosperity and thus it were considered as the most precious thing a person could possess. The beauty of the bottle was more important than the use to which the bottle was put into uses
Certain Chinese snuff bottles were specifically used by the princes. The princes that could use this special bottle were usually those that were of the first and the second rank. Another group that were allowed to use these special bottles were the emperor and there sons. This special bottle usually had the decoration of a dragon with five claws. The bottle that had the decoration of a dragon with four claws was restricted to the princess of the third and the fourth rank. The common people in the dynasty had their bottles decorated with the dragon with only three claws.
There were many animals that were used in the decoration of those Chinese snuff bottles. Some of them have been mentioned above. Other animals include the horse, hare, fish and the three legged toad. The horse is one the great treasures of Buddhism. The horse represented speed, perserverance, rank, wealth and power. The symbol of power and power came about as the result that the horses were mostly used to carry those of importance. The horse was usually carved in the naiveté style. The hare was usually curved on the bottle that was made from wood. The hare represented the wish of long life and immortality. The three legged toad was a symbol that represented wealth. This due to the myth that the creature had a purse that carried a lot of coins that no one could exhaust all the coins from the purse. The fish was an emblem that was used in decoration to represent wealth, abudance and harmony. The fish emblem was decorated on the bottle in different fashions.
Those Chinese snuff bottles are highly sought out in today China and in other parts of the world. There are certain number of collectors who have been interested in the collection of these Chinese snuff bottles and storing them safely or selling them out.