Chinese Idioms - 【成语故事】壶中天地
【成语故事】壶中天地 -- Realm in a Jar
(Clearwisdom.net) The saying "Heaven and Earth in a Jar" is a Chinese idiom derived from a story of the Yuntai Taoist Temple caretaker Zhang Shen from the Donghan Dynasty (25-220) who always carried a liquor vessel, and called a realm inside the jar the "Jar Heaven." Thus, people called him the "Jar Gentleman."
About three hundred miles away from Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, there is a Yuntai Mountain, which is a sacred place in Taoism. According to records from Taoism, Zhang Daoling (34-156), who was called the Zhengyitian Teacher, brought 370 of his disciples to Yuntai Mountain to cultivate.
Soon after, he saw that the temple didn't have a caretaker yet, so he then assigned disciple Zhang Shen to be the Temple caretaker. Under Zhang Shen's careful management, the Temple became more and more prosperous.
There was a gentleman called Shi Cun who strongly wished to cultivate in Taoism and to become an immortal. He heard that Zhang Daoling assigned a deity called the Jar Gentleman as caretaker in the Yuntai Temple, so he went there to learn from the Jar Gentlemen. There is a remarkable story behind his nickname.
It was discovered that Zhang Shen carried a liquor jar with him all the time. Whenever he chanted an incantation, there would be a realm displayed inside his jar with a sun, a moon, stars, a blue sky, earth, mountains, woods and grasslands, flowers, temples and houses, etc. Even more mysterious was that every night, Zhang Shen would put his jar on the floor, and slip into the jar to sleep after chanting incantations to enjoy his deity realm. He called his realm inside the jar the "Jar Heaven." Thus, people called him the "Jar Gentleman."
In the several thousand years of Chinese history, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism formed the colorful divine culture in China, and passed on many cultivation stories. People that do not believe in gods may think these are fairy tales or myths, but they are actually true historical events. Modern people use "A Realm in a Jar" to describe a Taoist heaven, or a realm that is beyond the dusty everyday world. If we can change our rigid ordinary mentalities, then maybe we can find ourselves in another realm, like the "Heaven and Earth in a Jar."
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