The jar itself is usually of a significant size containing a pint or more of whatever liquid the owner cares to put in it. Some of the vessels have lids and some don’t. Apart from the size which might denote the liquid capacity of its owner the question of lid or no lid is probably the first clue you might use in discovering the psychological profile of the owner using a particular jar. What sort of person would use a lidded jar and what sort of person would use a jar without a lid. The lid in my view would clearly show a person who likes to keep out dust, the unmentionable particles that often saturate the air in Beijing the from the jar and its liquid . The lid you might also argue could be to keep out flying insects; however in the few years I have been going to Beijing I haven’t actually seen any insects. I suspect that they are banned until after the Olympics in 2008. The lack of insects could also explain the lack of birds in Beijing, although I have seen a few on the edges of parks, they are pretty scarce and you take note when you see them.
Back to the jars, as I said the first difference you see is the lid no lid issue and as I have indicated I believe this is a pointer to the personal hygiene of the owner and their level of obsession with personal hygiene or cleanliness. Combined with other factors it could be a measure of how comfortable they are with their body to cope with contaminates in the air.
The second most obvious clue to the inner workings of the owner is that some jars look like they are almost custom made to carry what ever mysterious liquid that they carry, you might call them designer jars. While some jars are obviously old Nescafe instant coffee jars with or without the lid.
You could conclude that this difference might signify the divide between rich and poor or wan ‘a be rich and the poor.I have some difficulty with this analysis and personally believe it is more complex and involves elements of the traditionalist and modernist however I will let you be the judge of that.
There are a variety of the more stylish jars; they have a variety of shapes and sizes. Designer jars also come with or without the lid. Some of these custom jars are tall, some of them are squat, and some have twists and interesting curves. The designer jar can come in a variety of colours and I have seen them in various hues of browns, blues, greens, reds and whites. I haven’t given much thought to the significance of the colour however it is worth remembering the red in Chinese culture symbolises prosperity.
Another element in the use of the glass jar and the beverage that is contained within it is the actual social and political status of the jar owner. Just before you think that the ownership of a glass jar as a drinking receptacle is a poor mans trait I have to tell you I have seen glass jars in the possession of people from all walks of life and with all sorts of standings and status. It seems from the coolly to the Emperor the glass jar is a necessity of life. I suspect that under the benches in Chinese parliament the blokes have their glass jar stashed away. Knowing how simple a man Mao himself was I would not be surprised to hear he had a favourite glass jar under his chair in the Peoples Congress.