Smoking in China

A good book answers your questions. A really good book answers questions you had not thought of yet. Apparently Tim Brook’s Vermeer’s Hat is a really good book, as it is already answering questions I did not know I had. Among the many topics Brook discusses (the book is about globalization in the 17th century) is the history of smoking. He points out that this was a new habit in China (and everywhere else) and he also talks about pipes. I had always known that Chinese pipes were rather long, both the tobacco pipes like this Baccyor thiswater

and the opium pipes like this


1 Brook explains that the reason for the long pipes is that smoking was considered a particularly yang thing, and you wanted to let the heat of the smoke cool (or de-yang) itself as much as possible. This is why smoking was not advised for women or old men, why women’s pipes were so much longer than men’s and, I presume, why cigarette smoking among women was considered so risque in the the 20th century.

  1. Note that when selling things on Ebay you can call them all opium pipes  

1 Comment

  1. There is also a definite distinction between Manchu and Han pipe smoking practices. In Manchu households women traditionally smoked longer pipes than men. One of the principle duties of the daughter-in-law was to prepare and light pipes for her mother-in-law. If she didn’t, she may just be beaten with the very same pipe!

    check out

    Yi Song 1998 “Dawoerzu de zhongyan he yongyan xiguan (Daur Customs of Tobacco
    Farming and Use)”, Heilongjiang Minzu Congkan, Vol.3, No.54 (100-101)


    He Xianfang & Zhang Xiaoqiong 2004 “Xinbin Shangjiahe zhen Yaozhan cun Qing
    huangshi houyi diaocha jishi (Record of Investigation into the Descendents of the
    Imperial House at Yaozhan Village in Shangjiahe Township, Xinbin County)”,
    Manzu Yanjiu, No.1, pp 1-11.

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