Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Snuff bottle

Snuff bottle

  • Place of origin:

    China (made)

  • Date:

    1800-1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Overlay carved glass

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    China, Room 44, The T.T. Tsui Gallery, case 48 []

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

Snuff bottle, oval flattened flask with cylindrical neck made of white-tinged transparent glass with an overlay of carved red glass. Decorated with a catfish on its back on a lotus leaf, with a lotus pod and flower. Similar design on reverse; lotus bud and a small fish on one shoulder, lotus leaf on the other shoulder. Small flat oval base overlaid with a large radiating lotus leaf. Dome-shaped coral stopper set in gilded metal.

Place of Origin

China (made)


1800-1900 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Overlay carved glass


Height: 6.3 cm

Object history note

The Chinese word for fish, yu, makes a pun on the word for overflowing abundance, the word for catfish, nian, on the word for year, and the word for lotus, lian, on the word for continuous or successive. He bao, meaning 'lotus parcel' or 'lotus enwrapped', is also a sort of purse. Therefore the bottle carries a wish for wealth and prosperity for many years to come.

Descriptive line

Snuff bottle, overlay carved glass, China, Qing dynasty, 19th century

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. pp. 190-191, plate 87.

Labels and date

Snuff bottle
Qing dynasty

In Chinese, 'fish' is a homophone for 'abundance' and 'lotus' is a pun on 'continuous'. This bottle carries a wish for wealth and prosperity over many years to come.

Overlay carved glass

Salting Bequest
Museum no. C.1639-1910 [2009]
Oval flattened flask form with shoulders sloping up to a cylindrical neck; dome-shaped stopper set in gilded metal.
Glass, transparent with a white tinge, with overlay of red glass partly cut away.
Catfish on its back on lotus leaf, with lotus pod and flower; similar design on reverse; on one shoulder lotus bud and a small fish; lotus leaf on the other shoulder; large lotus leaf radiates up from base of bottle and it is this on which the fish rest.
The word for fish (yu) makes a pun on the word for overflowing abundance, the word for catfish (nian) on the word for year, and the word for lotus (lian) on the word for continuous or successive; moreover a 'he bao' (lotus parcel or lotus enwrapped) is a sort of purse.
Small flat oval base formed by overlay in form of central part of lotus leaf.
H. 6.3 cm
Salting Bequest. [pre 2005]




Overlay; Carved

Subjects depicted

Lotus; Fish; Catfish


ELISE; Images Online; Containers; Personal accessories; Glass


East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.