Opium in China
An luxurious and ornately decorated opium smoking room, possibly inside one of the "flower boat" pleasure craft that could be hired for a night of opium smoking on the Pearl River. The opium bed is at the back of the room. Circa 1880.
Opium smoking on a mat and with simple accoutrements. The man on the left is smoking tobacco with a water pipe.
Opium smokers who could afford it smoked in surroundings that were as placid as they were elegant.
Two opium smokers in Shanghai, China in the early 20th century.
A rare photograph of a woman smoking opium, said to be Shanghai in the 1920s.
Three friends taking turns at the pipe. While one waits, one is smoking, and the other uses a tool to clean the inside of a pipe-bowl.
A wealthy smoker poses with his pipe and lamp in China circa 1890.
A typical group of well-off opium smokers in China in the late 19th century.

Opium smoking in China before the communist takeover in 1949 could be found at all levels of society. From rickshaw pullers to emperors, devotees of the narcotic numbered in the millions. Opium smoking venues reflected the economic status of the smoker. For the wealthy, a private smoking room in the home was fitted out with rich trappings, including an opium bed, and decorated with calligraphic scrolls bearing auspicious sayings. For the poor, a public opium den was the only venue, where for a few coppers cash, low-grade opium could be smoked on woven bamboo mats and amidst simple surroundings.

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