Tobacco pouch

Certain Qing dynasty (1644-1912) robes lacked pockets, making pouches useful accessories. But the opening of this tiny tobacco pouch is stitched closed, indicating it was purely ornamental. Chinese “double happiness” characters appear on the tassels, and both sides are embroidered with phoenixes (symbolizing the Han empress) and lotuses (symbolizing purity), suggesting it was worn by a woman.

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What does this purely ornamental pouch tell us about the value of tobacco (or the practice of smoking) in early 20th century China?

responded: Apr 6, 2010

Posted by Alex

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I question whether it was the value of the tobacco itself that was important or the paraphernalia associated with it, like the pouch seen here. With the invention of new cultivation methods and the production of cigarettes in the 19th century, tobacco became increasingly available. The intricacy and lavishness of these types of pouches and other tobacco related products, like pipes, seem to be what held value as they distinguished “commoners” from the elite. The owner of this pouch may not have been trying to pretend that she carried tobacco. Perhaps she simply wanted to be seen with this ornate pouch. Its aesthetic beauty bestowed upon her social prestige and was a visual signifier of her status.

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