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Modern Art of Snuff Bottle

The History of Brocade Box : an ideal box for all kinds of Chinese art and craft

Updated: Mar 10


It is no secret that the Qianlong Emperor in the Qing Dynasty was a great collector of all kinds of crafts and artifacts. However, only a handful of people noticed that the Qianlong Emperor did put a lot of thought into the outer packaging of his collections. A splendid collection needs good packaging to express the collection's beauty on par with a man who needs to be dressed in clothes to show formality. A good brocade box can enhance the beauty of a cultural aesthetic and elevate the taste to a higher level. In addition to artistic taste, the box also plays a functional role, protecting the cultural relics from the next generations. 0f all kinds of boxes, the Qianlong emperor's favorite box was a brocade box, which, because of its fine craftsmanship and opulent form, has been known in China since ancient times. The brocade box is one of the most delicate packaging, which is often used as a gift for expensive objects, such as precious jewels, valuable paintings, jade, seals, snuff bottles, etc. The Qianlong emperor set an excellent example of how to treat collectibles and serve as a model for art collectors. This article will take you through the knowledge and forms of brocade boxes.



A style of brocade box made during the Qing Long dynasty. Picture from the Internet.
A Style of brocade box made during the Qing Long dynasty. Picture from the Internet.


The Chinese brocade box is a traditional decorative artifact that serves as outer packaging for relics and works of art. This is not only elegant but also functional decorative itself. It is worth noting that the "brocade" in the vocabulary of brocade box belongs to a very precious fabric in ancient China. This represents a fabric that was first dyed and then woven. The process is time-consuming and requires great skill in elegant embroidery patterns. According to the book written by Confucius, the silk fabric of brocade appeared in the Shang and Zhou dynasties. During the Tang and Song dynasties, the technology of brocade weaving tech developed rapidly, and more varieties of colors were invented. During the Yuan Dynasty, the technology reached its peak, and the cloth made of gold and silver thread was used as the material for brocade boxes. The material used for brocade boxes was mostly Song-style brocade, which had a soft texture, bright color, elegant flower patterns, and rich national characteristics. However, brocade boxes did not become popular until the late Ming and Qing dynasties. Before it, the dignitaries used brocade boxes as packaging for tribute, gifts, and collection of treasures.



A Book style of  brocade box made during the Qing Long dynasty. Picture from the Internet.
A Book style of brocade box made during the Qing Long dynasty. Picture from the Internet.


During the Qianlong period, the economy reached its peak, and the population grew substantially, resulting in a demographic dividend and the emergence of a wealthy class that showed much interest in antique artworks. Therefore, in order to meet the growing demand, many stores specialized in brocade boxes emerged. In modern times, with the revival of the traditional culture industry after China's government reform, handmade brocade boxes have also gained a greater market demand and more new styles and developments.



The brocade boxes are rich in ancient Chinese history and in cultural roots. The fabrics used in each dynasty have their unique style. Many western collectors were particularly fond of the oriental box, but most of which were poorly preserved. Few boxes have little intact.



Basic Form of Chinese Brocade Box


The size of traditional brocade boxes is determined by the contents' size and the number of compartments. The production process is handmade. The material of a good quality brocade box is made of thick wooden, and the outer lining is made of high-quality brocade cloth. In contrast, the inner lining is made of velvet or other ribbons to wrap the collection properly. The chosen fabric will demonstrate the appearance and the unique artistic value.


The brocade box shown above is a common form of brocade box, a custom-made box. Because the way it opens is similar to turning over a book, this category is also called a book-style brocade box, with hand-crafted pins as clasps at the closure place.



A customized brocade box with a decorative pattern. High quality made  in modern style. D.D Art snuff bottle
A customized brocade box with a decorative pattern. High quality made in modern style


The brocade box shown above is another popular type. It is the large one for plenty of gadgets. The box has two pins and a clasp in the front and has multiple compartments, such as eight, ten, and twelve compartments. Collectors usually like to place small objects such as jade, snuff bottles, seals and jewelry, etc.