Sharing the good snuff

Sharing the good snuff
An exhibition of close to 400 snuff bottles from a private collection are on display at the exhibition, Fine Chinese Snuff Bottle.

SINGAPORE - Close to 400 intricately crafted Chinese snuff bottles will be on display in the serenity of a Chinese tea house for the next two weeks.

The miniature containers are on show at the Tian Fu Tea Room in Beach Road, which is part of the Si Chuan Dou Hua chain of restaurants.

Ms Wee Wei Ling, executive director of the Si Chuan Dou Hua chain of restaurants, says: "We've been thinking for a while now about how to use the tea house to promote Chinese art and culture."

The idea for the current show began two years ago as she was talking to her friends, the owners of the Dragon Seeds Art Gallery, about their private collection: "I said, 'Hey, you must share it with us instead of keeping it to yourself, good stuff must be shared.'"

Hence the exhibition, which opened on Sunday, is organised in collaboration with the Hong Kong-based Dragon Seeds Art Gallery.

Mr Mun Yeuk Pei, director of the gallery, is glad for the chance to display the bottles for the public.

He says: "The main thing is to share with everybody the wonderful history and craftsmanship of these snuff bottles. In China, during the Qing dynasty, they were often owned by nobility."

Ms Wee, who founded the tea house in 2004, explains: "Snuff bottles originated in the Qing dynasty and were so well loved by Emperor Kangxi that he designated a space on the palace grounds for craftsmen to manufacture them.

"The workmanship is very dainty, very complex, and the process of handcrafting is very delicate, which is why they have become treasured collectors' items."

The bottles, which are about 6cm-tall high on average, were created to hold snuff, or a mixture of powdered tobacco and spices. They were popular during the Qing dynasty period, but fell out of use in the early 20th century.

The snuff bottles which are on display here are housed in the cosy, wood-panelled 50-seater tea house, which stocks more than 30 types of tea.

For the exhibition, wall shelves, standing structures and lighting were installed to turn the room into a mini-museum.

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