Explore highlights
Ivory snuff bottle, a foshou citrus fruit


Height: 9.000 cm (with stopper)

Bequeathed by Oscar C. Raphael

Asia OA 1945.10-17.345

Room 33: Asia

    Ivory snuff bottle, a foshou citrus fruit

    From China
    Qing dynasty, 19th century AD

    The 'Buddha's hand'

    The Chinese have used ivory since the Shang dynasty (about 1500-1050 BC). The ivory used during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), when this snuff bottle was made, was generally from Africa. Huge amounts of the material were imported for carving. Popular items included sculptures of Daoist and Buddhist gods and items for the scholar's desk, such as brush holders and wrist rests. Trays, wine cups, snuff equipment and other objects for daily use were made. Some ivories were offered as tribute to the court and many were exported to the West.

    This snuff bottle is in the shape of a foshou (Buddha's hand). Foshou is the Chinese name for the fruit of the citrus tree, or a finger citron. The name sounds like the words fu ('happiness') and shou ('longevity'), and the fruit was often used to represent these good wishes. The citrus tree was often sent as a gift at Chinese New Year. The fruit was carved in jade or ivory and presented on special occasions.

    This Buddha's hand snuff bottle has seventeen 'fingers'. It has carved hands on the lid.

    J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


    Browse or search over 4,000 highlights from the Museum collection

    On display: Room 33: Asia

    Shop Online

    History of the Forbidden City of China, £8.99

    History of the Forbidden City of China, £8.99