Page:Inside Canton.djvu/117

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Chinese tobacco-vases, though very elegant, do not resemble those charming little boxes of agate and cornelian set with gold, in which our great-grandmothers carried the perfumed snuff of Spain. They are simply little flasks of quartz, like our smelling-bottles. They are round or flat; their aperture is very narrow; to the cork is affixed an ivory spoon, to get at the scented dust. The Chinese take snuff like the peasants of Britanny and Provence: they place it first on the back of the hand, and then sniff it up with their nostrils. There are snuff-flasks of a very high price: their value depends upon the rarity of the stone of which they are made, and upon the time employed by the artist in fabricating them. I have seen a flask of yellow yiu which represented a cedar with five branches, commonly called the "Hand of Buddha." The sacred fruit was imitated with marvellous truth. Profiting by the sinuosities of the stone, the artists cleverly improvise all sorts of subjects, which they cut in relief, after the manner of cameos. Talkee-True had in his museum one of these vases, which excited our admiration; its surface was covered with insects, half-withered leaves, and fragments of plants, the execution of which—full of nature as it was—had been directed merely by the course of the coloured veins in the agate. Of course, the snuff-vases which the common people use, are not of hard stone: they are generally of coloured glass or