The term "snuff" originated from the West. In the beginning, it was translated as "shinahu (士拿乎)" and had entered China during the reign of Kangxi Emperor. The snuff is made from fermented tobacco powder blended with aromatic scents, and the application is to inhale it directly from the nose, to serve the purpose of clearing airway and lifting spirit. The translation of "shinahu" (held by the bureaucrats) might have reflected the rarity and preciousness of the snuff, exclusive to the royal nobles and aristocrats; it was circulating only above the rank of official bureaucrats.
Different from Westerners, who contained this light powder in cases, the Qing court used snuff bottles with a small opening, wide belly, and lid connected with a spoon, which became the trend at the time. The materials used changed from glasses in different colors, layered glasses, and carvings from minerals, ivories, and bones in the beginning to metal bases with painted enamels and painted enamels on glass bases that were extremely technical; and to porcelains, gourd-carvings, and glass painted from inside that developed to hold the snuff powder. The snuff bottles almost embraced every contemporary craft techniques to celebrate the limited space.
The National Palace Museum, Taipei holds an extensive collection of the most exquisite snuff bottles from the Qing court. The exhibition selects snuff bottles made from various materials (and present the perspectives of crafts that include carving, firing, and polishing) to illustrate the production of snuff bottles and the characteristics of the snuff bottle era. From the varied purposes of collection, daily use, and granted rewards, the essence of Qing’s craftsmanship is acknowledged and the classics of miniature art from the Qing palace is appreciated. From the innovation of techniques to the craftsmanship delivered from varied materials, and to all narratives shown through snuff bottle application and appreciation received, we can experience the new realm of art created by snuff bottles from the Qing dynasty.
Related network resources: Snuff: The Trend of Snuff Bottles from the Qing Court