Snuff is a kind of pharmaceutical preparation which the perfect ground tobacco powder is put into some rare medicinal Herb's-musk, etc. and sealed them into the wax pills and then staled for several or even dozens of years. Snuff has several different kinds of color, such as dark purple, deep yellow, pale yellow and so on. It tastes mellow and sharp. It can make eyes bright, refresh, exorcise epidemic disease and invigorate the circulation of blood. It is said that in old France, Napoleon was addicted to snuff and consumed seven pounds of snuff a month.
At the late 16th century tobacco was circulated from America, Luzon to Fujian Province in China. And then the custom of tobacco-leave smoking and snuffing was spread from the Philippines to Japan by Portuguese and Spanish sailors, traders, and missionaries. Later Japanese tobacco was spread to Northeast China through Korea and snuffing became popular in the regions inhabited by Man and Meng minority people. At the same time, Russian businessmen took tobacco, snuff and snuff boxes down to Northeast China and Inner-Mongolia. After that snuff has been more and more popular in China.
After snuff was spread to China, Chinese people at first used phials to hold snuff. And then they made use of all sorts of materials and craftworks to improve the containers. These containers are called "snuff bottles". The making of snuff bottles in China has a history of over 400 years. During the period of the Qing Dynasty, the taking of snuff became popular throughout China and was used by people from different social stratum.
All precious stones and metals can be the materials for making snuffle bottles. Even the most common things such as the cores of fruits and roots and stems of plants can be made into exquisite snuff bottles by skilful handicraftsmen. Snuff bottles made by precious materials could reflect the status of their owners. The feudal nobles, led by the Emperor, looked for precious materials from which to have craftsmen make snuff bottles. When the house of He Shen, the most favored minister of Qianlong Emperor, was searched, people found thousands of snuff bottles made of precious materials.
Apart from practical usages, snuff bottles also are used as gifts or souvenirs. The beautiful paintings can be done with a specialized painting hook brush by skilled artists in the snuff bottle inner side. There are many kinds of themes of painting for the snuff bottles, including Scenery snuff bottle, Flower snuff bottle, Historical character snuffle bottle, beauty snuffle bottle, Zodiac animal snuffle bottle, Peking Opera character snuffle bottle and fruit & vegetable snuffle bottle etc.
During the Qing Dynasty there came forth many famous snuff bottle masters and workshops. For example, the master of moulded procelain snuff bottles Wang Bingrong; the four famous inside painting artists Zhou Leyuan, Ma Shaoxuan, Ding Erzhong and Ye Zhongsan; and the renowned "Yuan Chia Pei" and "Hsin Chia Pei", are all outstanding ones in the trade at that time.
After the early period of the Republic of China, due to the continuous wars in China and the decline of snuff taking, the facture of snuff bottles was interrupted for more than half of a century. From the beginning of the 1970s, snuff bottles have met a new era of development in China. During the recent years the facture of various kinds of snuff bottles has been in an unprecedented prosperity in China. The most prominent are inside-painted snuff bottles and a great variety of glass snuff bottles. These two big categories have greatly exceeded those of the Qing Dynasty in terms of quantity and quality. Excellent craftsmen of snuff bottles can be found here and there and there are scholars and collectors both home and abroad who make researches on modern snuff bottles. There is also a "Snuff Bottle Association" in China that devotes to promoting and developing this traditional handicraft.