What is a Snuff Bottle?

Snuff bottles are the Chinese equivalent of the snuff boxes that evolved in the Western World. Both were used as containers for powdered tobacco. Tobacco was originally brought to Europe from the Americas and the powdered variety became known as snuff. It was subsequently introduced to China, probably by Portuguese traders.

Later Jesuit missionaries were known to have presented the Emperor with an elaborate snuff box and a quantity of snuff. The Emperor delighted in this gift but soon found that snuff could be better preserved in the traditional Chinese medicine bottles. He had equally elegant snuff bottles made for himself and members of his family. Soon snuff bottles became a status symbol for the nobility and in time for the entire population.