Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mama’s Green Salt Jar

The green jar has been with the family forever. I first noticed it when I was about five years old. My mother kept salt in the little jar. To me it was just an old green jar. It survived all the trips we had to make every time my father was transferred—from Kota Belud to Labuan to Jesselton to Kapayan to Tuaran to Menggatal to Penampang and finally back to Kota Belud to settle down when my father retired. The jar even survived the fire that razed our entire house to the ground.
Mother's green jar

Nobody, apart from Mama, took an interest in the jar. She must have been very fond of it because it had belonged to her father. To us kids, it was just an old salt jar but to my mother it was an object to be admired, a conversation piece. Until she pointed out to me, with a smile playing on her lips, “ada ayam, ada kambing, ada pokok pisang, ada naga, ada singa” I hadn’t even noticed there were anything on the surface of the glazed jar!

A dozen years or so ago, one or two of the siblings suddenly displayed interest in the jar. I begged my mother to give it to me. Those who had wanted to keep the jar had already received something of value, I argued. I didn’t get a share in the property that had belonged to my father. Mama must have had taken pity on me because she let me keep the jar—as well as an ancient brass rice gantang that had been in my father’s family but that’s another story!

So I took the jar home and initially kept it hidden from view just in case a sibling tried to take it away!

Now why am I telling you this long grandmother story? Why does this little salt jar deserve to have a story here?
The lid with Yuyi designs

Because I found an exact copy on ebay! (It has already been bought for USD600.)

Details found on eBay

It is not a salt jar but a ginger jar and it came from China. It was made between the 14th and 15th century. It could be more than 600 years old! How it came to my grandfather’s possession I have no idea. But I imagine some Chinese man must have taken the jar (perhaps along with several jars) filled with pickled ginger all the way from China to Borneo. The jar could have landed in Sarawak or Brunei where, apparently, thousands of Chinese people were employed in pepper plantations a very long time ago. (Note: Sarawak was also under Brunei rule before being given to the white rajah.) It—the green ginger jar—must have experienced wonderful adventures as it was taken from one place to another until—it sits quietly on my shelf.

Six hundred years old! I don’t care how it looks. I have a piece of history. Thank you, Ma!

No comments:

Post a Comment