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One of the ideas behind this new Forum is to discuss and ask questions about non-military items that we may have collected over the years. This is such a piece - and I have never previously seen one to even include the brocade carrying case.

The Far East is the main grower of the Opium Poppy - particularly the Golden Triangle which exists where Thailand - China - and Burma, come together.

It is an illegal crop and the Authorities do their best to burn and destroy. However, the people living in this area are fairly primitive tribes and just move the growing areas.

The poppy flower looks like most others, but, the green pod at the base of the petal contains morphine in a raw form. The collectors use a metal fingernail to slice cuts into the pod and then collect the whitesap that oozes out. This is opium and it is usually rolled into a small ball - rather like press tack and is smoked in asmall pipe. When opium has been refined it becomes morphine - which despite it's medical uses is one of the most addictive and evil drugs.

One of Britain's more disgraceful episodes was our forcing the Chinese - by several Wars - to allow the importation into China of Opium. This is how we gained Hong Kong - part of a settlement to stop the trade.

Older Chinese men would go to special houses to smoke - this was necessary as they were very vulnerable and disabled whilst the drug lasted. The wealthier ones would have their own special sets. Unfortunately, the drug was not confined to China and was prevalent throughout the East. The

set shown here is almost certainly Japanese and could be as much as 150 years old.

The set came into the shop years ago and probably came to Sth. Africa in the early years of the 19th. Century. Passenger ships would come here in the European winters and take trips to India, the Far East and Australia. This was probably bought as a souvenir in an antique shop of the time.

There are three pieces in the set - the bamboo, metal and gold decoration of the pipe ; the silver rod with a woven ball top. This was for heating over a burner and was then applied to the small ball of opium held on a spike in the bowl. Both were contained in a beautifully brocaded carrying case.

Opium is still used by some of the older people in the Far East - you can spot them immediately - they have an emaciated appearance and the skin colour, somehow, looks different. Other, more easily obtainable drugs now seem to have taken over.

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  • 1 year later...


This strange object came in during January - and has been a cause of much research. I had thoughts on it's

purpose - including a table lighter for an officers' mess to pass around after dinner to light cigars.

Last week we had the BRICS conference for the heads of State for Brasil, Russia, India, China and Sth. Africa.

A very senior Chinese diplomat came-in and took great interest in the lamp. He immediately identified it as a special

lamp to be passed around the rooms used by Opium addicts. Possibly as old as the mid-1850's. He was able

to read the engravings which totally cover all of the brass surfaces - and identified it as a famous Chinese poem.

I have attached it to the earlier post on opium pipes - together with the rare lamp it would make a fine collection for

a smoking collector.

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