Snuff Bottle and Stopper
Peony Bonsai with Pine Tree and Rock; Cherry Bonsai
Bonsai and Rocks (Inside-Painted)

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese. Painted by Zhou Leyuan, Chinese, active 1882 - 1893.

Made in China, Asia

Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)


Frosted glass with inside-painted watercolor decoration; jadeite and coral-colored stopper with ivory spoon

2 3/4 x 1 3/8 inches (7 x 3.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

* Gallery 236, Asian Art, second floor, right-hand case

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Major General and Mrs. William Crozier, 1944

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Snuff-made of tobacco that is ground into a powdered form and spiced with aromatic substances-was introduced to China from Japan in the late seventeenth century. Chinese elites believed that the powder had medicinal properties, and initially used cylindrical medicine bottles to hold this new "Japanese tobacco." Soon after, the Kangxi Emperor (reigned 1662 - 1722)-known for his fondness for snuff and a devoted patron of the arts-established a series of workshops in Beijing to manufacture small, high-quality objects for court use, including snuff bottles. The repertoire of bottle shapes, materials, and motifs dramatically expanded under imperial patronage, and artisans facilitated the dispensing of the tobacco by adding stoppers with attached ivory spoons.

Snuff bottle production reached aesthetic and technological heights during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736 - 1795), who particularly appreciated the artfulness of the miniature containers. Members of the Qianlong court frequently exchanged the exquisite receptacles as gifts, and by the mid-nineteenth century, snuff bottles had become mandatory items of apparel for Chinese gentlemen and those who aspired to this status. The popularization of these vessels helps account for the many glass bottles produced to resemble jade, agate, quartz, lapis lazuli, and other precious materials: glass snuff bottles were less expensive and a good imitation passed all but the closest scrutiny. Chinese interest in snuff bottles as collectibles continued into the twentieth century, when delicate, inside-painted wares dominated the market.

Rugged rocks and bonsai plants are important decorative elements in traditional Chinese gardens and courtyards, which captured the interest of the affluent literati in the Qing dynasty.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.