Lot 101
An Unusual Miniature White Jade Snuff Bottle, Late Qing Dynasty

Of flattened oval form, carved of a milky white stone with yellow undertones, with two natural fissures to one face

Condition: minor old losses, inclusions, overall in good condition

height 1.4"
height 3.5 cm


Est. $200/400
Realised: $204
Auction Date: 12/07/2017


Provenance: The Snuff Bottle Collection of Dr. Leslie and Dr. Janet Kilborn

The eldest child of accomplished Drs. Omar and Retta Kilborn, Leslie Gifford Kilborn was born in 1895 in Kiating, West China. He enrolled at Victoria College in 1913, studying Physiology and Microbiology, and graduated in 1917 with First Class Honours and Victoria’s Silver Medal in the Sciences. He pursued further studies at the University of Toronto, earning an M.A. in Physiology in 1918, an M.D. in 1921, and a Ph.D. in 1928.

In 1921 Leslie married Dr. Janet McClure, the daughter of pioneer missionaries of the Canadian Presbyterian Mission in North China. After marrying, they sailed to West China in the fall of 1921, spending their first eighteen months studying Chinese in Pengshien. In 1923, they began their careers with West China Union University. Leslie was a professor of Physiology and Biochemistry, and Janet taught Pediatric Medicine and medical English, while also overseeing the WCUU eye hospital. Leslie and Janet had four children – Robert, Mary, Frances and Jean – all of whom were born in China. Janet died in 1945, and two years later Leslie married Jean E. Miller, a W.M.S. doctor with a specialization in anaesthesia.

During his career at West China Union University, Leslie held several administrative roles. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine form 1936-1947, and Director of the College of Medicine and Dentistry from 1939-1950. Throughout these years he was also active in medical research, publishing scientific articles and monographs, and also serving on the editorial boards of medical journals.

Leslie and Jean lived under the Communist government from December 1949 until March 1952. During the Sino-Japanese war, staff and students from several universities were forced to flee. Many sought refuge at the campus of West China Union University, and the Kilborns were integral in facilitating their accommodation. In 1952 Leslie and Jean left for Hong Kong, where they took up academic appointments at the University of Hong Kong.

In April 1965, Victoria College conferred a Doctorate of Sacred Letters (D. Lit S.) on Leslie. He died on June 23, 1967.

The Kilborns’ legacy is one of pioneering medical excellence and a passionate commitment to education. This collection of snuff bottles, amassed during their time in China, is a physical remembrance of their profound devotion to a country and people they dedicated their service to.


Note: This unusual piece was likely used for rare and expensive snuff as it is much smaller than most common bottles


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