Abstract – What makes a jar global? The circulations of a Cizhou wine flask

What makes a jar global? The circulations of a Cizhou wine flask

Anne Gerritsen, University of Warwick


The wine flask that features as the central object in this paper is a heavily potted flask, 43 cm in height and 37 cm wide, and 11.2 cm in diameter. It has a narrow neck with a so-called ‘mushroom lip’, sloped shoulders with two loops (or lugs), and a flat base. The two flat sides of the flask feature a central plane, framed by decorative bands. Made in Cizhou in northern China during the late Yuan-early Ming, the flask now forms part of the British Museum collection. Arguably, this object is a misfit for our conference: it is a flask, not a jar; and it circulated mostly within the Chinese empire, not globally. At the same time, this idea of a ‘misfit’ forces us to rethink ideas about what makes a jar a jar and what makes an object global. My explorations will begin by considering the object in its own right, discussing aspects of its materiality, its shape, and its decorative scheme. It will then open up the wider contexts of wine flasks specifically and Cizhou wares more generally, and the social and geographical patters of their circulation, arguing that this flask has an important place within the wider discussions of jars. Finally, it will seek to define the meanings of the word ‘global’, arguing that global and local are part of the same spectrum. If we think of global as a method, and specially as a spatial approach to the local, then it makes sense to think of this wine flask as a global jar.


Anne Gerritsen gained her PhD from Harvard University and is a member of the history department at the University of Warwick. Her first book, Ji’an Literati and the Local, was published by Brill in 2007, and her second book, on the local and global history of ceramics manufactures in Jingdezhen, has been accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press. She has also co-edited several volumes, on global material culture and the history of gift-giving with Giorgio Riello and Zoltan Biedermann, and on micro-spatial histories of labour with Christian de Vito. More recently, she has been working on the global circulation of medical commodities, specifically rhubarb and holds a seed-grant from the Wellcome Trust to develop a research network on this subject. At Warwick, she currently directs the Global History and Culture Centre. At Leiden University, she has held the Kikkoman Chair for Asia-Europe Exchange since 2013, and from 2018, she will hold the Chair of Asian Art.