Virtual Museum: Snuff bottles

Art & Culture
2020-06-22 17:49:01

Bayankhongor /MONTSAME/. In our ‘Virtual Museum’ series, we are presenting you snuff bottles that are being stored in the local museum of Bayankhongor aimag. 

A carved chalcedony snuff bottle 

Date created: In the beginning of the XX Century 

Material: Chalcedony gemstone, stone, brass, copper

Dimension: 8х4.2х1.8 cm, 110 gr

Stone snuff bottles long used by the Mongolians dates back to the Qing Dynasty. Between 164—1911, the consumption of snuff or tobacco increased in the Central Asian region, which later formed the practice of snuff-bottle making with stones. Beginning from the 1700s, the use of stone snuff bottles had become widespread among the Mongols, serving as a type of accessory until today. There is a collection of ancient snuff bottles with quite elaborate and fancy designs at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and among them is a huge snuff bottle bigger than the palm of a hand used by the Mongolians. 

Snuff bottle is the main accessory of men, reflecting the traditional culture of the Mongolians and it also has been used by women. After it was introduced in Mongolia from the Manchu and Tibet, the habit of sniffing tobacco assumed its unique form similar to Tibetan’s. Compared to the Chinese snuff bottles recognized by their individual designs and patterns, Mongolian snuff bottles are made with special attention on their stone materials, particularly the design and value of their bottle caps. Also, snuff bottles of state figures or noblemen as its previous owners are considered more valuable and cost expensive.  In the past, snuff bottles were commonly used by Buddhist noblemen, dignitaries and high-level state officials. 

Coral snuff bottle 

Date created: In the beginning of the XX Century 

Material: Coral, amber, bone, brass, engraving

Dimension: 11х7.2 cm, 385 gr 

Coral stone is often regarded as a talisman of prophets or foretellers and protects its wearers from evil spells, curses and bad spirits, and also helps improve memory and heals wounds and scars. Women in labor traditionally rubs snuff bottles made of coral with her palms to avoid any complications during delivery. Therefore, coral stone snuff bottle is considered as the most expensive one. 

Jade snuff bottle 

Date created: In late XIX century, In the beginning of the XX Century 

Material: Jade, brass, silver 

Dimension: 4.5х6.7 cm, 71 gr 

Jade stone has been in domestic use since the Stone Age period. It is believed that the jade stone assists a man and a woman to maintain dared customs, become a kind human being and repair bone fractures. Jade also becomes more transparent and attractive over time. 

Jade snuff bottle for Uuj clothing 

Date created: In late XIX century, In the beginning of the XX Century 

Material: Silver, coral stone, jade stone

Dimension: 4.3х8.5 cm, 55 gr 


Mongolian snuff bottles are differed as large, medium and small sized, snuff bottles for men and women as well as for purse and table, etc. There is a strict custom of exchanging snuff bottles for greetings in Mongolia. When two people greet, they hold each of their snuff bottles straight up in the palm of their right hands and the head of the snuff bottles must be loosened and they take the snuffs from each other, sniff it and swap it back. 

Chalcedony snuff bottle for table 

Date created: In the beginning of the XX Century 

Material: Chalcedony, coral stone, turquoise, brass, iron 

Dimension: 13х10 cm, 600 gr 

Depending on its composition, there are more than 30 types of chalcedony. Chalcedony has powerful quality of healing that can treat epilepsy and seizures and dissolve negative vibrations. It is also believed to protect family happiness. 

Related news