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Drexel Exhibition to Feature 100 Chinese Dragon Snuff Bottles

September 16, 2010

Drexel Exhibition to Feature 100 Chinese Dragon Snuff Bottles
Drexel University will display 100 Chinese Dragon snuff bottles in a new exhibition from September 20 through November 30. The snuff bottles are on loan from the collection of John O’Hara, a Philadelphia private collector. They will be on display in the University’s Rincliffe Gallery.

The exhibition is a tribute to Drexel’s strong ties to the dragon. Drexel’s logo incorporates a dragon, its mascot is a dragon and its sports team members are the “Dragons.”

Snuff, composed mostly of powdered tobacco combined with mint, jasmine or camphor, was used in China for medicinal purposes as early as the 17th century to cure the common cold. Snuff was placed on the back of the thumb and inhaled through the nose. Initially, snuff was used by the imperial family and the influential minority of China. However, by the 19th century, it was available to everyone.

The earliest snuff bottles were made for the Court in Beijing in the 17th century and their popularity reached its zenith in the 18th century.

The bottles are small, derived from medicine bottles from an earlier period, and designed to rest in the palm of the hand. The bottles are fitted with a small spoon, usually made of ivory and inserted into a stopper. Most stoppers were made of coral or jade. During travel, snuff bottles were carried in small pouches and placed in the pockets or sleeves of the travelers. Chinese snuff bottles were made of various materials including jade, agate, tea crystal, amber, cinnabar, glass ivory, metal and porcelain. Due to the high quality of the polished material, the bottles had a pleasing tactile value and were often held and rubbed in the hands.

The dragon has long been associated with the Chinese emperor. Three types of dragons are depicted on Chinese snuff bottles: the Horned dragon chasing the pearl; the Chi dragon with snake-like characteristics such as its split-forked tail and the Kui dragon, which is stylized and decorative.

Drexel’s Rincliffe Gallery is located on the third floor of the Main Building, 32nd and Chestnut streets. The Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the exhibition contact, Jacqueline DeGroff, curator, The Drexel Collectionsm at 215-895-0480 or For more information about The Drexel Collectionsm visit


News media contact: Niki Gianakaris, director, Drexel News Bureau, 215-895-6741, 215-778-7752 (cell),

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