Credit Line: Gift of Ann and Henry Brunnier. In the Ann and Henry Brunnier Collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Although tobacco first appeared in China near the end of the sixteenth century, it was not taken in the form of snuff until its appearance in the Chinese imperial court in the late seventeenth century. At the time, snuff was considered to have curative properties and was used by the Jesuits whose physicians attended the Emperor on occasion and prescribed Western medicines. Snuff is made of pulverized tobacco and spices to produce different varieties, such as sour, sweet, bitter and hot. Principal aromatic ingredients are mint, camphor and jasmine. As one would expect, the primary effect of snuff (which was taken by sniffing it into the nostrils) was an explosive sneeze.
Although snuff was originally used by the Chinese upper class, eventually its use spread to the population at large, leading to the development of a small industry. Large numbers of beautiful bottles were made by the Chinese from many different materials including turquoise, malachite, coral, fossils and glass. Jade and porcelain were the most prized, but another favorite material was crystalline quartz or hair crystal, rock crystal infused with black tourmaline fibers.