D i a l o g u e b o x
from iii Hou Han shu 後漢書
(Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1965), 82.2743
When the Elder Fei was made city magistrate, there was an old man who sold medicine in the marketplace.
He would hang a hu 壺 vessel outside his shop. When the market closed, he would jump into the vessel.
The Elder Fei saw this from o n e of the upper stories of the building,
and so knew the old man was not a normal being.
The next day, he went back to pay a visit to the old man.
Together, they jumped into the vessel.
He saw nothing but stern and majestic jade halls, spread full of excellent liquor and fine meats.
When they were done supping, they departed.
He opened the lid, and sat silently for thirty seconds.
He then closed the lid.
He re: opened it,
and then sat silently again for a full two minutes and twenty-three seconds.
He then closed and re:opened the lid o n e more time,
sitting silently this time for o n e minute and forty seconds.
He then closed the lid and walked off stage.
That was all.
Stories such as these
gave rise to a later term known as “ vessel heaven” (hu tian 壺天).
This was the belief in a heavenly realm resided within the confines of hu vessels.
Later Song dynasty poetry periodically described the realm and noted that it could be accessed by special individuals
through jade gates just outside the confines of vessel heaven.