One of the traditions of Chinese art is that only the Emperor, his sons and princes of the first and second ranks were permitted to own an artefact illustrated with a dragon having five claws.Four-clawed dragons were restricted to princes of the third and fourth ranks, while the common folk had to be content with a dragon having three claws.
The eight precious organs of the Buddha are venerated – his heart, gall bladder, spleen, lungs, liver, stomach, kidneys and intestines. Animals, on the other hand appear with regularity, the most common being the dragon.
A dragon is shown in the example at right on a porcelain bottle in splendid red and blue and clutching the inevitable fiery pearl.
Many bottles are completely devoid of decoration, others are incredibly ornate.
As in all Chinese arts and crafts, motifs and symbols play an important part in decorative detail.
The hare represents a wish for long life and even immortality.
In Chinese tradition it is believed that if one attains a sufficiently high standard of morality and enlightenment, one will become one of the immortals. It was thought to be an animated purse containing an inexhaustible supply of coins, hence it represents wealth and has become a symbol of the unattainable.
Tobacco was introduced by the Portuguese to the court at Beijing some time during the mid- to late-16th century.
It was originally smoked in pipes before the establishment of the Qing Dynasty.
Symbols are derived from a multitude of sources such as legends, history, religion, philosophy and superstition.
The ideas used are almost always directed toward bringing wealth, health, good luck, longevity, even immortality to the owner of an artifact, frequently as a wish expressed in a kind of coded form by the giver of a gift.
Chinese snuff bottles were typically decorated with paintings or carvings, which distinguished bottles of different quality and value.