I watched across the room in silence like a voyeur as this stranger was about to take part in a most disgusting ritual. On this young Chinese gentleman’s desk, was a stained brown jar partly filled with a murky looking fluid partly covered a tangle of decomposing green and brown leaves and stalks? Reaching for the jar, his actions lead me to believe that he was within seconds’ of celebrating an ugly ritual which I had seen from time to time in Beijing. He would be pouring this revolting mix contained in his jar down his very own throat. I mentally pleaded with the lad not to go through with it, but short of physically rushing across the room and removing it from his hands I could not prevent him. My stomach heaved as the jar reached his lips and he swilled the liquid. He removed the jar from his face and in a sign of bravado brushed his lips with his shirt sleeve. A thin smile grew across his lower face as he placed the jar back on his desk and returned his work on his computer.
I shuddered at the thought of the act he had just completed and wondered about what was in that jar and where it came from. Was it an ancient Chinese herbal remedy, did it have some mystic healing powers, was it just a disgusting habit. It could have been a substance that was traditional and an acquired taste, or some sort of addictive potion or perhaps it was just simply Chinese tea. The mere look of the vessel and its contents made it impossible for me to imagine committing such act my self as I reflected on this ritual, I reflected on the vessel and on the many forms I had seen it manifest itself in Beijing.
I had noticed the ritual with the glass jar and its implementation in my many visits to Beijing. This strange but common habit of the Chinese to have a coffee jar or something similar on their person or close to them, perhaps on their desk or a shelf under it or by it. The jar is used as a drinking vessel and is a constant companion of a large number of Chinese, it is almost always full of the some beverage that is awaiting consumption. The jar takes on all sorts of forms and many of these forms may provide some insight to the owner. There are two main parts to this puzzle, the jar and the contents of the jar. I suspect that both these elements are not necessarily directly linked although they are linked when combined with the individual. Some sort of psychological profile of the person who owns the jar and it contents may be possible with some work. I do not know of any such research being done and so I will just discuss my observations and let you draw your own conclusions.