Antique Porcelain Ginger Jar

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Ginger Jars—or guan as the Chinese call them—have been a staple in elegant households since the 18th century. Sculpted with high shoulders, a round belly, no handles, and a domed lid, each is made unique by the delicate designs painted across its surface.
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Ginger jars were utilitarian as much as they were decorative objects, used to store herbs and spices in Chinese households while also serving an important showcase of the skills and techniques that had been cultivated across centuries. Yellow jars were reserved for emperors while white jars (often covered in blue scrollwork) became the ideal gift for a bride and groom on their wedding day. 

As trade flourished between the East and West in the 18th century, the influence of these ginger jars spread far and wide across Europe, bringing about the age of chinoiserie alongside the Rococo movement. Later, during the 1960s, these antique jars were once again sought after and have continued to be in the decades since. 

The two antique porcelain ginger jars we possess are rare in that they’ve survived without blemish, lids intact. Hand-painted in soft blue lines in a style often referred to as nonya or Shanghai ware, the dominant design is of sweet pea flowers and vines symbolizing “forever” and “many children.” The central Chinese character created in deep indigo is a “shuang xi” which translates to double joy, bliss, and happiness. Sold as a pair in the 19th century, they were most likely gifted to a newlywed couple and could very well make that journey again today.