The precious and expensive opium was carefully preserved by the opium takers of the past. Designated boxes came into circulation that closed airtightly to keep the tar-like substance fresh. This is such a box intended to be carried in the pocket, hence the flat shape with the rounded outer corners. In order to be able to place the object stably during use, the bottom is kept flat, so is the lid for the right balance. The luxury of this object is in the finish. The outside is decorated with enamel cloisonné, a beloved Chinese method in which enamel is melted in compartments enclosed by miniscule edges of brass. After melting, the surface was smoothly polished and given a beautiful shine. Characteristic Chinese is decorating design showing branches with blossoming flowers on a black background. The result gives a rich colour contrast that has been applied on all sides. For practical use, the inside is also provided with enamel, in this case in solid blue. That enables easy cleaning. The dominant black colour can be associated with the popular famille noire porcelain, although that is not a logic comparison. With a date between 1880 and 1910 this box tes bears witness to the last flowering period of the opium paraphernalia, not much later the use of opium is definitively banned in China. Such boxes will be sold for a long time as a reminder of that typically Chinese way of smoking. If the demand persists, copies are made with a great resemblance to the original examples, but no longer for the purpose of opium taking.
Amsterdam Pipe Museum APM 22.788Permalink