history of bongs

History of the Bong

Many people believe the water pipe was a fancy upgrade to rolled cigarettes that were invented during the hippie era. While glass water pipes certainly gained popularity in the Western world during that time, bong history actually has roots that go back long before the Vietnam War or even the founding of Vietnam itself.

So who made the first bong? Current discoveries have dated the earliest found water pipe at roughly 2,400 years ago, which were solid gold and used by Scythian tribal chiefs who dwelt in and around modern-day Russia.

From previous discoveries, we know that ancient water pipes were used in parts of Africa and central Asia for centuries before they were given the classic name of “buang”, making them an essential part of bong history.

The term described the Thai bamboo pipes used in the 16th century. This is where we derive the English version of the water pipe from, which is also known as a “bong”.

Bong Imports

With the benefit of the Silk Road, water pipes made their way to China and were frequently enjoyed by Chinese royalty. They became highly popular for smoking tobacco during the Qing Dynasty by royals and laypeople alike. According to bong history, Empress Dowager Cixi was one ruler who preferred water pipes and was even buried with a few of her favorites when she died in the early 1900s.

Recent History

While we can’t say who made the first bong, we can say who made it what it is today. During the 1960s and ’70s, Bob Snodgrass became the godfather of modern-day water pipes. He invented the fuming technique that gives pipes their characteristic psychedelic colors.

They appealed to a wide range of people, and the rest is bong history. The movement was greatly disrupted, however, when U.S. laws passed in 2003 made the sale and/or transport of “drug paraphernalia” illegal. Many shops were shut down and online sales plummeted. Currently, water pipes are strictly sold for tobacco use only.

Modern Era Bongs

Today, there are a plethora of water pipes available for every taste and budget. Glass is the preferred type among most users, but silicone pipes have brought a more modern upgrade to the water pipe world. As silicone takes over and more people are budget-conscious for their bong purchases, glass is becoming a part of bong history. Because of the quality and benefits that glass provides, it’s still unlikely that they’ll become obsolete.

Some pipe makers have even turned to the ancient world for inspiration and have started experimenting with metal pipes again by looking back and thinking about who made the first bong. Who knows, we may even see gold pipes re-emerge after a 2,000-year hiatus!

Another material seen more frequently in the construction of today’s water pipes that may have inspiration from pipes of old is wood, as seen here in the Marley Natural Glass Water Pipe Bong. It’s a piece of bong history with a modern twist.

Better Than DIY

Right now, extreme users can make their own pipes out of just about anything they have lying around. Sometimes in desperation, and sometimes just to be funny or add flavor to a hit, users will craft a pipe out of fruit or vegetables. As a tribute to these innovators, some glassmakers include those various objects into their creations, like this clever design.

Not only have water pipes evolved in terms of construction material and design but also in efficiency and accessories. Looking at bong history gives you a greater appreciation for the evolution of the product.

Many designs now include built-in percolators to achieve maximum smooth hits. Recycler designs have also become extremely popular for their smooth deliveries. As the industry continues to expand in the west, we look forward to seeing more creative pipes produced by artists and inventors whose goals are to perfect this time-honored tradition.

Learn about bong history and find out who made the first bong. After you get the facts, check out bongs at SMOKEA® and get free shipping on U.S. orders $10+.

The Bong: A Long & Smoky History

Have you ever stopped to think, in between deep inhalations of smooth, filtered smoke, the cultural and historical significance of the glorious bong you’re holding in your hands?

There are probably many questions you consider when using a bong, like whether we’re alone in the universe or whether caterpillars actually know if they’ll someday be butterflies. All valid questions.

But, before there were online head shops, before there was the Internet, long before there was even indoor plumbing, there was the bong. That’s right – the bong has been around since as early as 400 B.C. Below you’ll find a thorough history on how your favorite pipe came to wind up in your hands!

This post has been updated from its original version posted on July 11th, 2017.

Bongs Today

These days, there are hundreds of bongs to choose from to suit your every need. Gone are the days when we have to fashion our own primitive pipe from whatever materials we have lying around. We’re also witnessing the rise of electronic smoke or vapor inhalation.

Glass remains the most popular material for bong production, and generally produces the best results. Silicone pipes have also been introduced to the market to mix things up in the world of modern pipe manufacturing.

Some pipe makers have taken inspiration from the days of the Qing dynasty and began experimenting with using metals to produce bongs. It’s even possible that gold bongs might come into fashion for the very first time in 2,400 years.

The 60’s & 70’s

In the 19th century, glass became the most popular material used to manufacture bongs. After that, the bong resurfaces in history in the 60’s. The world was experiencing a cultural revolution, and the “free love” hippie generation was born.

During this time, Bob Snodgrass an American lamp worker, revolutionized the art of bong manufacturing. Snodgrass invented the fuming technique that we still use to this day that gives pipes their distinctive color patterns. If the bong you’re using is a gorgeous, glass work of art, you have Bob Snodgrass to thank for that.

The Ming Dynasty

In the latter half of the 16th century, the use of bongs was introduced into China during the late Ming dynasty, through Persian trade and the Silk Road. The Silk Road was a vast network of trade routes throughout eastern Asia that connected all of the major trade hubs. Bongs, tobacco and opium were transported along these routes.

Once the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China, arrived in 1636, the bong exploded in popularity and became the most popular way to smoke. Even Empress Dowager Cixi, who controlled the Chinese government for 47 years, used a bong when it had recently come to be viewed as a commoner’s item. She was even buried with a whole bunch of her favorite bongs.

Throughout the Qing dynasty when the bong exploded in global popularity, it was divided into two different kinds. Homemade bamboo pipes were fashioned and used by country folk. Elegant, opulent metal models were created and used by the city-dwelling population and Chinese royalty. These were made from bronze, silver or brass.

Africa, Asia & Iran, 1,100-1,400 A.D.

Around 1100-1400 A.D. water pipes and hookahs, early forerunners of the bong, were used in disparate parts of Africa, Central Asia and Iran. It wasn’t until the 16th century these water pipes were given the name “buang,” the Thai word describing the bamboo pipes that were fashioned in Thailand to smoke tobacco and herbs.

Earliest Recorded Use of a Bong

About 2,400 years ago, was the earliest recorded time period in which the bong was used. Scythian tribal chiefs who dwelt in what is now modern-day Russia fashioned bongs out of solid gold. The excavation of a kurgan (burial mound) in Russia in 2013 uncovered hundreds of ancient gold bongs when a construction crew was clearing the land to install new power lines. The bongs had been used to smoke cannabis and opium, and were most likely introduced into tribal ceremonies of some kind.


Bongs certainly have come a very long way since being used by ancient Scythian tribes. These days the bong industry reaches $1 billion a year. Whatever kind of bong you need, online head shops are a modern way to meet your needs, and at Toker Supply, we have every conceivable bong under the sun to choose from.

Have you ever stopped to think, in between deep inhalations of smooth, filtered smoke, the cultural and historical significance of the glorious bong you’re holding in your hands?