What Is A Chinese Snuff Bottle?

When you see the word snuff, you will automatically think of tobacco. The use of tobacco is widespread across the globe, but are you aware of the rich Chinese culture that involves snuff? A snuff bottle is a small container used to hold ground tobacco. The Chinese had beautiful snuff bottles that they carried around. In this article, we dive into the origin of the Chinese snuff bottles, how they are made, and more.

What Is a Chinese Snuff Bottle

A Chinese snuff bottle is a small bottle used in the past to hold snuff. These snuff bottles are a rich part of ancient Chinese culture. The Chinese snuff bottles are made of different materials, including wood, lacquer, glass, stone, Ivory, jade, agate, and mixed media.

These attractive bottles are designed to fit the palm comfortably and are no more than three inches high. A snuff bottle comes with a tight cork and a small spoon.

Snuff bottles come in different colors and designs. Some bottles have paintings on them, while others have a smooth finishing. The unique designs are evidence of the prowess of Chinese artisans.

Chinese Snuff Bottle History

The use of Chinese snuff bottles dates back to the Qing Dynasty. Jesuit missionaries gifted the ruling emperor with a snuff box in an attempt to access the Forbidden City. With time, the emperor realized that the snuff boxes were no good in the humid climate of China.

The emperor got the idea that if they instead put the snuff into Chinese medicine bottles, it would be protected from moisture. This saw to the birth of the Chinese snuff bottles.

Although tobacco use was forbidden, snuff was allowed on the ground that it was a remedy for simple illnesses such as headaches and the common cold.

Today, the Chinese snuff bottles are sold in antique shops as ornaments.

What Were Chinese Snuff Bottles Used For?

The Chinese snuff bottles served two main purposes: holding snuff and as attractive hand-held artifacts.

The small-sized snuff bottles were convenient for carrying snuff around. The bottles had a small opening and a tight cork to ensure that the snuff was protected from moisture.

Besides, it was prestigious to carry a snuff bottle around. The elite members of the Chinese society embraced the practice of walking around with snuff bottles in their hands.

How to Make a Chinese Snuff Bottle

Most of the Chinese snuff bottles are handmade. There is a wide range of materials used in making the snuff bottles. Some of the materials include stone and wood. These materials are hand-carved into the desired shapes.

The paintings present on some of the snuff bottles are drawn by hand. However, some snuff bottles, such as those made using porcelain, are made on a mold.


The Chinese used portable snuff bottles to carry ground tobacco. Made with beautiful designs and art, these bottles were also beautiful ornaments. Most of these bottles were handmade, with only a few made using a mold. The use of Chinese snuff bottles dates back to the 18th century. As discussed in this article, these snuff bottles remain an important part of Chinese culture.

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