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Snuff bottle

Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1760-1861 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    unknown (production)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    [Stopper] Formed form a half coral bead set in metal
    [Snuff bottle] Carved nephrite jade

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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Snuff is powdered tobacco, usually blended with aromatic herbs or spices. The habit of snuff-taking spread to China from the West during the 17th century and became established in the 18th century. People generally carried snuff in a small bottle. By the 20th century these bottles had become collectors' items, owing to the great variety of materials and decorative techniques used in their production.

Physical description

The snuff bottle is an oblong flattened flask form with curved shoulders and a dome shaped stopper. It is carved from jade, green shading to brown and the stopper is formed from a half coral bead set in metal.
Depicted is the alchemist Zhang Qian on his raft, with a crane, pine tree and water; a vase with magic fungus; a bottle gourd suspended from a branch and a cloud motif at neck.
The reverse is plain except for waves and a prunus branch; masks and mock ring handles on shoulders.
The foot has an indentation underneath. The brown patches are used for the carved decoration, particularly the water, and the waves continue on the reverse of the bottle as far as the brown colour extends; the cloud motif incised at the neck disguises a mistake in the carving. The carving is dense and compact and forms an even surface on one side of the bottle.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1760-1861 (made)


unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques

[Stopper] Formed form a half coral bead set in metal
[Snuff bottle] Carved nephrite jade


Height: 6.3 cm

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

White, Helen. Snuff Bottles from China. London: Bamboo Publishing Ltd in association with the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1992. 291p., ill. ISBN 1870076109.


Metal; Coral; Jade



Subjects depicted

Vase; Mask; Pine; Waves; Prunus; Crane; Gourd; Fungus; Raft; Zhang Qian


Containers; Personal accessories

Production Type


Collection code


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