Yixing Stoneware from the Mr and Mrs Gerard Hawthorn Collection: Part II (lots 501-545)
A group of eleven Yixing stoneware opium pipe bowls
Qing dynasty Of various forms, some mounted with silver rims or painted by coloured slip, or incised with inscriptions, each impressed with seal marks. largest: 8.5cm diam. (11).
During the nineteenth century, when opium dens became prevalent in China, a large quantity of opium pipe-bowls were produced by using Yixing stoneware for smoking opium. The Chinese method of smoking opium is different from regular smoking. It requires the vapors being distilled in this highly specialised opium bowl, rather than burning the opium itself. When the opium pellet was heated, the opium pallet would be transformed into a dense vapor when it was being heated, which then would be drawn into the bowl, through the opening at the top of the bowl. When the vapors hit the large compartment inside the bowl, it caused the solid matter to precipitate from the vapor and stick to the inside of the bowl. This left the pure distilled elements of the opium in a vapor form.