Snuff I Didn’t Know. Did You?

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Last month when I was at the art gallery I took a look into all the nooks and crannies that I’d never taken the time to explore before. I might have made an audible gasp after walking into a darkened area to find two large lighted cases displaying ancient Chinese Snuff Bottles. Standing no more than a few inches high, they looked like little jewels, each a masterpiece in itself.

Of course, I’d heard of snuff before and knew if was something people put up their noses, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I didn’t really know what it was. So I was interested to see that is was actually powdered tobacco, that came into fashion during the Qing Dynasty in 1644, when the smoking of tobacco was outlawed in China.

What you can’t tell by looking at these bottles is that, attached to the inside of the lids and dipping down into the bottles, are thin spoons used to get the snuff out.

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Clearly the law was overridden along the way, because today China is the world’s leading user of tobacco. A surprising stat I found is that 60% of male doctors in China are smokers, and that there is strong social pressure for Chinese men to smoke. But it’s a big year for them on that front, because they have deemed 2014 the year that smoking tobacco is to be banned in public areas. I wonder if snuff will become popular again.

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↑ It was hard to pick a favourite among these beautiful pieces but I think it would be one of these two. ↑

Here in Toronto people have been forbidden from smoking inside public buildings, workplaces, bars and restaurants for a long time, but people are still allowed to smoke on the street. This means that there are always groups of people lingering in front of buildings have a smoke, that people walking have to maneuver around, and many cigarette filters left all over the sidewalks. How about where you live … Is smoking allowed in public?

I wouldn’t be my pun-loving self if I didn’t say in closing that that is ‘snuff about snuff’.

Thanks for taking a look. I hope you’re having a good Thursday.
xo loulou

[These snuff bottles are part of the permanent collection at The Art Gallery of Ontario and can be seen for free on Wednesday evenings between 6:00 and 8:30. They’re on the first floor all the way to the left after you enter.]

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