Silver Opium Box

Features five opium poppies in cover design .

Opium is kept on the smoker's tray in a special container called the opium box ( yen he). Opium boxes were traditionally crafted from buffalo horn, jade, ivory, ebony, lacquer, silver, gold, copper, bronze and a variety of other materials, and designed in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and styles. For liquid opium, tall round containers with a narrow mouth and tight lid were prefrred, so that the liquid could be carefully decanted drop by drop into a cooking pan without dripping, and could be stored without evaporation. For solid or semisolid opium, flat boxes with a wide opening were used, designed in square, rectangular, round, oval and other geometric shapes. Opium boxes were often inscribed with auspicious ideograms such as shou ("longevity"), fu ("good fortune), and hsi ("happiness"), etched with traditional motifs such as dragons, clouds, and flowers or inlaid with precious stones.

- excerpt from pp. 200 - 201, Opium Culture: The Art and Ritual of the Chinese Tradition by Peter Lee (2006)

Silver Opium Box
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