Chapter

The Fashionable Consumption of Tobacco, 1750–1900

Carol Benedict

in Golden-Silk Smoke

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520262775
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948563 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520262775.003.0006
The Fashionable Consumption of Tobacco, 1750–1900

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Chinese tobacco, from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century and beyond, formed part of a dynamic domain of consumption that changed over time. Used by all ranks, classes, and both genders, Chinese tobacco was never one undifferentiated commodity: people in China, as elsewhere, consumed the substance in socially stratified ways that varied in accordance with price, changing social norms, ideas about its medicinal qualities, and the dictates of fashion. The gradual geographical diffusion of commercial tobacco cultivation that occurred between 1600 and 1750 resulted not only in a profusion of inexpensive local tobaccos but also in a proliferation of premium regional tobaccos which could be sold for relatively high prices. While those among the lower ranks of society continued to smoke cut tobacco in long pipes, the elite increasingly switched to snuff and water-pipe tobacco. Over time, these more fashionable ways of consuming tobacco also percolated down the social hierarchy to the “middling sort” in Chinese cities. Once it became fashionable, expensive water-pipe tobacco of different varieties and provenance began to circulate among the landed gentry as well.

Keywords: China; tobacco; smoking; fashion; consumption; elite; snuff; water-pipe tobacco; social hierarchy; landed gentry

Chapter.  10307 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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