The term “snuff” originated from the West, earlier, it was translated into “Shinahu 士拿乎” and had entered the land of China in the reign of Kangxi Emperor. The snuff is made from fermented tobacco powder blended with aromatic scents, and the application is to inhale it directly from the nose, to serve the purpose of clearing airway and lifting up spirits. The translation of “Shinahu” (held by the bureaucrats) might reflect the rarity and preciousness of the snuff, exclusive to the royal nobles and aristocrats; it was circulating only above the rank of official bureaucrats.
Different from the Westerns contained this light powder in cases; the Qing court used snuff bottles with small opening, wide belly, and a lid connected with a spoon, and became the trend at the time. The material initially varies from the glasses in different colours, layered glasses, and carvings from minerals, ivories, and bones, then to metal bases with painted enamels and painted enamels on glass bases that are extremely technical, or porcelains, even gourd-carvings, to glass painted from inside that developed to hold the snuff powder. The snuff bottles almost embraced every contemporary crafts technique to celebrate the limited space.
The National Palace Museum, Taipei holds an extensive collection of the most exquisite snuff bottles from the Qing court. The exhibition selects snuff bottles from various materials, from the perspective of crafts that include carving, firing, and polishing, to understand the production and the characteristic of an era that delivered from the process. From the varied purposes of collection, daily use to granted rewards, so to acknowledge the essence of Qing’s craftsmanship, and further to appreciate the classics of miniature art from the Qing palace. From the innovation of techniques to the craftsmanship delivered from varied materials, and along with all narratives shown through its application and appreciation received, we can experience the new realm of art created by snuff bottles from the Qing dynasty.