Globular Jars and Barrel Jars


There are many photographs on the internet of pottery found on sunken Chinese ships and most show several large globular jars among the recovered pottery. Also, there are accounts of ships using these jars to carry trade foods and liquids (often wine) and then, eventually, trading the jars as well. As none of these were made in North America they must all have arrived here by ship-- carrying different food stuffs and liquids for trade, the large empty jars remaining behind to be traded off and obtained for storage. Globular jars and barrel jars are not easy to find but are objects of beauty to have in any collection of Chinese North American artifacts and collectables. Some may think it strange but I am attracted to these utilitarian jars whereas I find the large colourfully decorated and ornate jars, intended to be works of art, uninteresting.

There have been two large globular jars in the collection for many years and I obtained a third large globular jar in 2007 that originally came from Locke California Chinese town. This is the larger of the three shown in the following picture and had been in a collection for many years. Originally the collector had obtained it from a rancher who had gotten it years before in Locke. The large globular pot is 14 inches tall. The small globular pot came from Victoria, BC Chinatown and the middle one with the character panel came from San Francisco.



And I have now obtained a fourth large globular jar. This one comes from Bakersfield, California Chinatown and was in a family collection there for many years. It is also 14" tall and has a character panel. The characters in the panel talk about the nine rivers and riches obtained. This one is "extra-interesting" as it lacks the tie-down and/or lid securing lugs found on all others I've seen in this style. These jars were mainly used for food and water storage and are uncommon and prized in any collection. For the storage of liquids, jars had to be glazed inside. The smaller pot on the left above is not glazed inside so was used for dry food storage.

There was a Chinese mining village on Keithley Creek, some miles past Likely, BC. The man who purchased the Keithley Creek Borland ranch found a dozen of these globular jars in the old buildings along the creek when they still existed in the 1950s. He had them on shelves around his home and I first saw them in 1972 when I visited him with a mutual friend. That was the first time I saw any of these globular jars and I was very impressed by them. That collection went to the US with his widow, who moved back there when he died. He had a shed full of Chinese pottery of all kinds found in those ruins.





This is a barrel jar from Jackson, California. Jackson is not far from Chinese Camp, Ca. which at one time had a Chinese population of 5000 and is the original source of this jar. It is 18" tall and is similar to Roy's large barrel jar on his page. These are very difficult to find, especially with an intact lid. This one is, as you can see, without a lid. There are several in one of the Barkerville log building store displays and also in the Nevada City museum in Montana.

Recently (spring of 2013) a collector friend of mine in Mission, BC, spotted a very nice large barrel jar (17 1/2 H x 15 W), similar to the one shown here, with no lid out at the curb for spring cleanup garbage pick-up. Needless to say he rescued it immediately and it is now in his collection. Lucky guy!! One man's junk is another man's treasure.



This is a very nice large barrel jar complete with large pan lid intact from Silver City, Idaho. In a quote from one online reference: "Silver City, Idaho, with a Chinese population of seven hundred in 1874, had a Chinese Masonic temple, two Joss houses, several restaurants, two laundries, four stores, two lotteries, five gambling houses, and several warehouses." --- all part of Silver City Chinatown. The lid is 10" in diameter and the jar stands 15 1/4 " tall. Green barrel jars exist but appear to be very rare. Most I have seen have the brown glaze, except one green one in the Asian American Comparative Collection (click here to see) and a similar one on auction in New Zealand. Barrel jars having North American usage seem to be seldom available for the collector although I have seen several in museums and a few in use in Chinese stores.



I finally found a green barrel jar in Oregon (20 June 2015). It has no lid but that is the usual condition of most of these I have seen. The jar is 9" tall and 8" wide at the lip. It is similar to the jar in the Asian American Comparative Collection, shown in the link above. This jar lacks the decorative bosses around the top and is somewhat smaller, but otherwise appears to be very much the same. As mentioned before these green barrel jars are uncommon. I'm happy to have one in the collection.



This is a very large Chinese storage jar. 17.5" tall and 9" across at the base. As it is glazed inside as well as outside, it was used to store/transport a liquid; possibly water, vinegar, soy sauce or wine. This one dates from about the late 1800s and came from Astoria, Oregon. Chinese have been in Astoria since 1840 and worked in canneries there in the late 1800s---



There are three Chinese characters on the side of the above jar, near the top, in Mandarin they read Zhang Bin Li, either a person's name or a brand, possibly the name of the pottery where the jar was made---



This large Chinese storage jar is glazed on the inside for storage and/or shipping of liquids such as water, wine, soy sauce or vinegar. It is 15" tall by 12" wide and came from Texas. It has what appears to be a character near the top in white paint. These large jars without lugs are quite rare and seldom seen.



In January 2012 I obtained another large Chinese storage jar. This one is 16" tall by 14" wide. It is glazed inside so was probably used for liquid storage/shipment. The outside glaze is a rough brown similar to the glaze on many of the pots in the collection. My source originally obtained it from an antique emporium in San Diego that sells local collectables.



The three large storage jars together. The jar in the centre is 17.5 inches tall and a different style than the other two jars.



This is a recently obtained (Feb 2012) medium sized jar with a pouring spout and handle. It is 10" in diameter and 11.5" in height and has a rounded top with a short neck. The jar has a very rough pitted glaze, minor grazing, and scratching from long term use and burial. It was purchased at a de-accession auction of a large midwest USA Museum in the late 1980s by my source. Its age cannot be determined as these have been made from early times right up until 1900. These large spouted jars with lugs were used as storage masters for water, wine, vinegar, soy sauce and other liquids. They may also have seen usage as teapots on ships and in restaurants. This jar was identified as Chinese Chizhou ware on a museum tag. There is a large globular jar with lugs, handle and spout having the collar type top in one of the log display buildings in Barkerville's Chinatown.



This jar with spout is 9.5 " high and 8.5" wide. It has a longer neck and a rounded top. A top view is shown on the bottles and pots page with the spouted jars. It was obtained in Seattle in the 1990s by my source who was also a collector of North American used Chinese artifacts and collectables.



In the collection, then, we have these large Chinese jars having a collar type top with and without lugs and also having a rounded top with and without lugs. The jar shown above has a fairly long neck and I have seen another large jar with lugs and an even longer neck with rounded top in a recent publication. It is possible that the collar type, with the lugs with no holes, are more recent (ie; 19th C.) than the round top type having lugs with holes. The lugs were used to tie the lid down. They may also have been used for tying the jars down in the holds of small coastal trading ships. Large jars with round tops and the large lugs are commonly seen in photos of pottery recovered from sunken Chinese ships.

Recently a collector friend sent me photos of large Chinese jars recovered by divers off the Tacoma, Wa., waterfront and in Lake Pend Oreille at Hope, Idaho. The Hope jar is of a different kind than I'd seen before. It is a very tall plain looking jar. There were shards of identical jars found in Idaho excavations as well and reported in archaeological reports as found in other USA locations. I recently found a link on the net to an identical jar, found in Australia. There are inscriptions on both jars and the Australian one indicates the jar was used for wine storage. Take this link (Australian wine jar) and look at the jar on the left (the jar on the right is a nice one too!). A Chinese establishment called the China Den, where all the Chinese men stayed when in town, was located in Hope, Idaho. This was a favorite meeting spot for Chinese railroad workers in the 1880s. No doubt plenty of wine was consumed there! I don't have one of these jars in my collection as yet, but am always hopeful!