Ivory snuff equipment

From China
Qing dynasty (AD 1644-1911)

Spoons and other items used for taking snuff

Snuff is powdered tobacco, flavoured with various herbs and spices. It is sniffed, rather than smoked. Snuff was probably introduced to China in the seventeenth century by the Jesuits. First used by the early Qing emperors, then other members of the court, the habit of taking snuff spread quickly through Chinese society. This stimulated the production of small, intricately decorated snuff bottles.

Snuff can be ingested from a pinch between the fingers, or from a miniature dish, or from a small spoon attached to the stopper of a snuff bottle.

The three spoons are attached to the corked lids of snuff bottles. They are made of cloisonné, agate and dark stone, respectively. The associated snuff bottles would not necessarily have been made from the same materials. The long ivory spoon would have been used to scoop snuff off the dish. The ivory funnel does not taper, as Western ones do, but has a hole at the bottom.

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More information


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


Length: 27.000 cm (spoon)
Height: 5.200 cm (funnel)
Diameter: 4.400 cm (saucer)

Museum number

Asia OA 1992.11-14.1-3



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