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White Jade Fish-shaped Snuff Bottle with Jadeite Cap

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Dimensions: Length: 7.4 cm; thickness: 1.6 cm

This snuff bottle, made of white Hetian jade, retains an exterior of Osmanthus-yellow (guihua se). Carved into the shape of a small fish, the jade has been hollowed. The small cap is a piece of delicately carved green jade in the shape of a toad. The cap is matched with a small ivory spoon.

Snuff is a kind of tobacco sniffed through the nostril rather than smoked. Popular in Europe during the seventeenth century and introduced to China toward the end of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and beginning of the Qing (1644–1911), the substance was adapted by the Chinese into a powder with a range of additional medicinal ingredients aimed to boost vision and the immune system. Consequently, snuff became popular with people from all walks of life, and container designs were soon customized to Chinese tastes. Snuff bottles became prevalent in the Qing dynasty as a miniature artform integrating various styles, materials, and craftsmanship. A snuff bottle of good quality and craftsmanship was also a symbol of social status.

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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