This inauspicious tool undoubtedly was invented and lost and reinvented and lost through the millennia that humans have enjoyed a relationship with Cannabis among other plants and herbs Nature's bounty has provided.
But how did the modern bong get popularized today? Let's take a look at the Etymology.
The word bong is an adaptation of the Thai word bong or baung (Thai: บ้อง, [bɔ̂ŋ]), which refers to a cylindrical wooden tube, pipe, or container cut from bamboo, and which also refers to the bong used for smoking.
Clearly "bong" is common vernacular as it describes a rather simplistic tool made from local materials readily available. However this tool was not relegated to commoners. In fact it's popularity was driven by it's Royal Roots.
Excavations of a kurgan in Russia in 2013 revealed that Scythian tribal chiefs used gold vessels 2400 years ago to smoke cannabis and opium. The kurgan was discovered when construction workers were clearing land for the construction of a power line.
Anthropologists believe that bongs were first popularized in the African and Asian regions of the world, though there’s still some debate as to which region first sparked its mainstream popularity. Regardless, in both groups, bong use ultimately spread like wildfire.
Excavating Ethiopian caves unearthed one of the first known forms, which is believed to date back nearly a millennium, in the range of 1100 to 1400 CE. Trace quantities of cannabis residue were detected in some of these, indicating that early inhabitants of Africa may have been the first to use bongs the way that most of us do today.
During the reign of Emperor Akbar, physician Hakim Abul Fath invented the waterpipe in India, and discovered tobacco. Abul suggested that tobacco “smoke should be first passed through a small receptacle of water so that it would be rendered harmless.”
Other sources also show evidence of the invention of the waterpipe in China during the late Ming Dynasty (16th century), along with tobacco, through Persia and the Silk Road. By the Qing Dynasty, it became the most popular method to smoke tobacco, but became less popular since the Republic era.
While typically employed by commoners, the water pipe is known to have been preferred by Empress Dowager Cixi over snuff bottles or other methods of intake. According to the Imperial Household Department, she was buried with at least three water pipes; some of her collections can be seen in the Palace Museum.
The water bong employed since the Qing dynasty can be divided into two types: the homemade bamboo bong commonly made and used by country people, and a more elegant metal version employed by Chinese merchants, urbanites, and nobility. Metal utensils are typically made out of bronze or brass, the nobility version of silver and decorated with jewels.
Lucky tiger bong ancient Royal Chinese design