5176

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Green-Glazed Earthenware Opium Smoker’s Pillow

China
19th century

length: 14.3cm, width: 12.5cm, thickness: 6.6cm

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This pillow of earthenware coloured in an attractive green glaze was acquired in Singapore in the early 20th century.

Pillows such as these were produced in China and exported to overseas Chinese communities most particularly in Southeast Asia. Pillows in this shape were no specifically made for opium smokers but most typically were used in Southeast Asia for that purpose. Often they were used in commercial opium dens.

One end of this example has an aperture to permit items to be stored inside – typically the wallet of the smoker. Once the wallet was inside, the open end of the pillow would be pushed up against the wall while the smoker lay on the floor or smoking platform, resting his head on the pillow. This allowed the wallet to be kept more safely once the smoker was intoxicated by the opium.

The pillow is particularly attractive and is in fine condition without chips or cracks.

References

Martin, S., The Art of Opium Antiques, Silkworm Books, 2007. :

Acquired in Singapore by A.S. Haynes of England around 1920, and thereafter by descent. Haynes held a number of positions in the colonial administration, including that of Acting Colonial Secretary (Straits Settlements).

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