Snuff tobacco flacons, early 20th century

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
Food, Beverages and Tobacco
1900 - 1909
At the moment this object is not published in the museum.

Tobacco was first introduced into Europe following the ‘discovery’ of America. And even though tobacco has been fought against time and time again and condemned for its effects, its use became widespread.

In the late 16th century the nicotine-based stimulant gradually found its way to China, too. Snuff tobacco became fashionable among members of the upper classes, evidently influenced by missionaries. Whenever the effect of snuff tobacco was achieved via the mucous membranes, it was blended with other ingredients, which in China included musk, camphor, jasmine, mint, and other herbs. It was regarded as stimulating and beneficial to health.

Because of these supposed properties Chinese consumers liked to store their snuff tobacco in flasks, the traditional receptacle for medicinal products. By contrast, in Europe it was packaged in tins. Many Chinese snuff tobacco flacons were elaborately manufactured. They were carved, painted from the inside through the narrow opening of the flacon neck, or embellished with calligraphy. The Emperor and high-ranking officials owned entire collections of these precious receptacles, which were regarded as popular gifts in refined circles. The appreciation of such articles reached its heyday during the rule of the Qianlong Emperor (reign 1735-1796). From that period onwards, the flacons were exported to Europe, where they were regarded as evidence of Chinese craftsmanship.

The flacons at the Technisches Museum Wien are intended for more modest requirements. Made of coloured glass, they appear rather plain and somewhat rustic. They were manufactured in Chefoo (present-day Yantai in Shandong Province). This seaport facing the Yellow Sea was under the influence of European colonial powers at the time, Germany included. Since 1880 it was also home to a Protestant mission school.

Date of origin: early 20th century

Manufactured in Chefoo, China

Inv.Nr. 72559

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