Opium Pipe-Bowls
A rare figural pipe-bowl in the shape of a Buddhist deity. Such figural bowls are highly prized by collectors.
An appealing pipe-bowl adorned with the portrait of a woman sitting under a willow tree.
Examples of short, pseudo-proverbs praising opium use can be found on some pipe-bowls. This typical one translates to "The clay bowl is better than gold and jade", an oblique way of saying "Opium use is better than being wealthy".
The craftsman who made this earthenware bowl utilized a type of ceramic inlay in order to illustrate two Buddhist lions, or "Foo dogs" as they are known in the West.
A late 19th century earthenware pipe-bowl decorated with the character denoting longevity and the "endless knot", a Buddhist symbol.
Blue and white porcelain is one of China's best known exports, but its use in crafting opium pipe-bowls was uncommon. That this example was heavily used can be seen in the heat crack at its needle hole.
A pipe-bowl from the mid-19th century decorated with phoenixes in relief.
This pipe-bowl with yin-yang motif was salvaged from the Tek Sing, a Chinese junk bound for Java that sank in the Riau Archipelago in 1822. The bowl's glaze was scoured off by the sea.
A rare intact pipe-bowl from the early 19th century adorned with red glaze and bats, both symbolic of happiness.

The distinctive pipe-bowl is what set the opium pipe apart from all other pipes for smoking. Usually made from fired earthenware, pipe-bowls of the late 18th through early 20th centuries depicted favorite Chinese motifs and iconography such as dragons, phoenixes, animals, and symbols representing longevity, wealth, and happiness; Buddhist and Taoist deities -- the list goes on and on. While it is little known today, the Chinese once created gem-like works of art in the form of opium pipe-bowls.

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