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Snuff bottle

Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1750-1895 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Opaque white glass with red glass overlay, carved in relief

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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 bottle is an oval flattened flask form, with very wide neck hole without a stopper.
It is made of glass, densely mottled opaque white, with overlay of red glass carved in relief.
The decoration depicts the sun rising over waves in the East, with a wan character, a bat and lotus. On the reverse there is a catfish lying in a lotus leaf, two birds and lotus plant. The lower part of the bottle is wrapped in a lotus leaf which radiates from underneath the base.
The bottle does not have a foot, the base is flat with indentation formed by overlay in shape of a lotus leaf.
The word for fish, yu, sounds like the word for 'surplus', that for catfish, nian, like the word for 'year', and the word for lotus, lian, like the word for 'successive'; a he-bao (lotus package or wrapping) also means 'purse'; the wan character means 'ten thousand'. The message is one of prosperity and good fortune for many years to come.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1750-1895 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Opaque white glass with red glass overlay, carved in relief


Height: 6.1 cm

Descriptive line

Snuff bottle, opaque white glass with red glass overlay carved in relief, China, 1750-1895

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.





Subjects depicted

Lotus; Bat (animal); Bird; Catfish


ELISE; Containers; Personal accessories; Glass


East Asia Collection

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