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Presentation unveils inner beauty of snuff bottles

05-30-2011 09:29 BJT

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"Snuff bottles" were used by the Chinese people during the Qing Dynasty to contain powdered tobacco. The stimulant was used as a remedy for common illnesses such as colds and headaches.

Although nowadays people no longer carry the powder in a small bottle, replica snuff bottles can still be purchased in souvenir shops. Their beauty and value makes them great collectibles, especially for the exquisite paintings inside.

Without a doubt, the bottles that arouse the most interest among collectors are those with paintings on the inside. There may be a picture as well as calligraphy painted on the inner surface of the glass. Recently one of China's top craftsman of the technique, Mr Zhang Zenglou, held a small presentation for the public.

Zhang Zenglou said, "The usual size of a snuff bottle would fit in the palm of your hand, so it requires skills and experience to manipulate the brush through the neck of the bottle, and also to paint in reverse."

Recently one of China's top craftsman of the technique, Mr Zhang Zenglou, held a small
presentation for the public.

These delightful scenes are only 3 to 6 centimeters high, and the neck of the bottle may be less than a centimeter across. Traditionally a skilled artist may complete a simple bottle in a week while something special may take a month or more. According to one scholar in traditional culture, The range of subject matter used in the inside painted bottles is without limit.

Chang Xianglin, scholar, said, "There are scenes, fish, birds, poems, even portraits."

The subjects and skills are the reflection to the inventiveness of Chinese craftsmen. What's more, nowadays they have even adapted several skills from the western painting styles. As the delicate bottles have always been desirable for collectors, the beauty of a snuff bottle is probably more important than any utilitarian consideration.

Although the inside painting is enrolled as an item of China's intangible cultural heritage, the craft is still suffering from a lack of investment and interested young painters.

In the public meeting, Mr Zhang expressed his sincere hopes that the presentation will attract a few of the younger generation, and that the artistic value and commercial potential would inspire more painters to fully devote themselves to the craft.

Recently one of China's top craftsman of the technique, Mr Zhang Zenglou, held a small
presentation for the public.

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