Opium and opium taking
One of the most special ways of smoking is opium taking; both the ritual and the effect make a big impression. Opium is extracted from the poppy and is very powerful. During smoking, the opium is not burned but evaporated. A small opium ball is heated above an opium lamp until it eventually dissolves into vapor, which the smoker inhales. For the opium smoking a special pipe has been developed with a miniscule bowl at the top of a spherical so-called damper in which the solids of the smoke precipitate. The smoke is inhaled through a stem of almost half a meter. The smoker, usually lying on an opium bed or floor mat, sinks into a soothing intoxication.
Many Chinese opium pipes are of a special beauty. The design strives for the right balance together with a harmonious combination of different materials. The best pipes are made of bamboo, but luxurious materials such as buffalo horn, turtle and ivory can be used. The decorations of the pipes are limited to the embossment of the metal saddle and the carving of a finger rest. These decorations are always traditional in nature.
In addition to the opium pipe, there are all kinds of paraphernalia: the opium lamp, boxes, needles, spatulas and other objects that make taking opium into a ritual. Among rich opium users, the iconographic pattern on these objects was attuned to each other. However, most opium users quickly became impoverished and used simple accessories that were only functional.