Despite the name, a ginger jar is more than just a vessel once used to store ginger. These decorative, squat containers originated as a means to store spices. Since the 18th century, though, the beautiful, sometimes ornate jars have been used primarily as decor.

Still life with bouquet of cherry blossoms
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Ginger jar used as a vase.

Ginger Jar Features

Ginger jars are generally of similar shape and made of porcelain -- they all look a bit like a vase or urn with wide shoulders. A matching domed lid rests atop the opening of the jar, although the lid may be missing on an antique piece. Some traditional pieces come in blue and white porcelain, with designs featuring dragons, landscapes or floral elements. Ginger jars may also be yellow, signifying a gift to an emperor, red for health and longevity, or white as a wedding gift.

Modern Uses

Ginger jars are used primarily for decor in modern times, since spices are sold in different types of containers. Some collectors group ginger jars for display on shelves or tables based on color or size, or use them as vases for floral arrangements. In some cases, the spice jars are converted into table lamps -- the jar shape is similar to the shape of many ceramic lamps.