Water pipe, for smoking opium or tobacco, made of stainless white metal alloy, Chinese, 1801-1830
Opium is an extremely powerful drug. Heated opium or tobacco was placed in the lidded well of this ornate water pipe and the fumes were inhaled through the pipe. It is made from stainless white metal alloy with enamelled flowers and foliage engraved onto it. Opium was medicinally used for pain relief and inducing sleep. However, many people have become addicted to it over the centuries.
By the late 1700s, opium had been used in much of Asia for several hundred years. In China, it had been used medicinally since Arab traders brought it from the Middle East in the 600s or 700s CE. Styles of opium pipe reflected the wealth or poverty of their owners, with designs ranging from bejewelled, elaborately ornamented works of art to simple clay or bamboo constructions.