Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets


Show Summary

The Chinese with their mercantile instinct became the most active propagators of tobacco and smoking all over Asia. As distributors of the product they played the same role in Asia as the English in Europe, and covered a larger territory than any modern tobacco trust could ever hope for. Chinese tobacco and smoking utensils are still ubiquitous among all native tribes of the Amur country in eastern Siberia, in Mongolia, Turkestan, and Tibet. As in so many other things, the Chinese set the model for all peoples with whom they came into contact. Wherever the Russians advanced into Siberia in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they found tobacco already cultivated under Chinese influence and the practice of smoking it well established. When Ysbrants Ides, envoy of the Russian czar to the court of China, reached Tsitsikar, a mart of Manchuria, in 1693, he found the Dauri, a tribe of Tungusian stock, in the possession of tobacco cultures. They transmitted it to the tribes of the lower Amur and finally to the Gilyak living at the estuary of the river and on Saghalin Island. The words for tobacco and the pipe in the languages of all these peoples are based on the Chinese prototypes. They smoke, but do not snuff or chew. From the middle of the nineteenth century onward Russian tobacco also reached the Amur tribes through the medium of Cossacks, hunters, and merchants, but Chinese tobacco has always held its ground among them. At the time of my travels in the Amur country in 1898–1899 the long Manchurian tobacco leaf tied up in bundles was the favorite medium of barter.

The Ostyak on the Ob are known to have smoked tobacco in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and did so with a peculiar method of their own. They first filled their mouth with water, and lighting a pipe, swallowed the smoke together with this water. An observer of thai time relates that, when they had their first pipe in the morning, they fell to the ground as though attacked by an epileptic fit, as the smoke they had swallowed took their breath away. They were in the habit of smoking only when seated. Their pipes were made of a wretched kind of wood, and when tobacco failed them, they smoked the shavings from the pipe wood. They preferred Chinese to Russian tobacco.

In 1697 the Russians instituted a tobacco monopoly in Siberia which in the following year was ceded to Sir Thomas Osborne. The English tobacco thus introduced had to struggle with the formidable competition of the Chinese product, so much so that the sale of the latter was finally prohibited in 1701 under penalty of fine and confiscation, to which in 1704 capital punishment for officials was added. The interesting point is that at that moment tobacco had completed its encircling of the globe and that the tobacco having crossed the Atlantic to England and Russia clashed in Siberia with the tobacco having traversed the Pacific to the Philippines and to China, as it were, in a head-on collision.

There are, accordingly, three movements of the tobacco plant into Asia to be distinguished: one from Mexico to the Philippines continued into Formosa and China and from China into the adjacent territories; another from Europe over the maritime route chiefly fostered by the Portuguese, who transmitted the plant to India, Java, and Japan; and a third sponsored by the Russians during their advance into Siberia.

The curious fact may be pointed out that there is but one people in Asia who does not make use of tobacco in any form, and this is the Yami who inhabit to the number of about 1,700 the small island of Botel Tobago thirty-five miles east of Formosa. They do not cultivate the plant, nor will they accept tobacco as a gift. Not being acquainted with the preparation of any alcoholic beverage, they are complete prohibitionists.1

1Laufer, B.n/an/an/an/an/a, "Tobacco and Its Use in Asia," , 15–17, 18.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: "Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets," Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 18, 2019,

MLA: . "Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets." Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 18 Jul. 2019.

Harvard: , 'Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets' in Field Mus. Nat. Hist., Anth. Leaflets. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 18 July 2019, from