Ancient Chinese people were known for creating many marvelous items, and today, we’ll be exploring two fascinating stories about ancient Chinese bottles.
1. The blue copper bottle
Our first story comes from the book Shi Tian Weng Ke Zuo Xin Wen by Shen Zhou during the Ming Dynasty. Ten miles west of Pingding County in Shanxi Province in the Ming Dynasty, a Buddhist monk was known as Wang Jia Lan. Wang Jia Lan built a simple house here and practiced meditation and Buddhism.
One day, while Wang Jia Lan was meditating, he saw two blue-colored children standing beside him. He believed they were trying to deceive him, so he drove them away in his mind. The two children left and disappeared when they reached the nearby spring. This made Wang Jia Lan have a realization, so he started digging near the spring and discovered two ancient blue copper bottles covered in green rust.
Wang Jia Lan placed these two ancient copper bottles before the Buddha statue. Once, he picked some wild chrysanthemums and put them inside the bottles as an offering to the Buddha. To his surprise, the chrysanthemums’ flowers and leaves did not wither after a year.
By the second year, these chrysanthemums that had been inside the bottles for a whole year bore fruit, resembling octagonal shapes and appearing similar to bronze in texture. Wang Jia Lan once prayed for rain during a drought and placed these two ancient bottles before the local rain god statue. As the rain-seeking ritual began, water gradually flowed out from the ancient bottles, and soon after, it started to rain. People believe this was all due to Wang Jia Lan’s devoutness.
2. The date-displaying bottle
Our second story comes from the book Liao Zhai Zhi Yi by Pu Songling during the Qing Dynasty. In the Qing Dynasty, in a village in the northern part of Zichuan County in Shandong Province, two villagers went down a dry well to dig for water. Unexpectedly, they found several ancient artifacts, including two porcelain bottles. Yuan Xuan, a scholar, and Zhang Xiu Cai, a literati, obtained these two bottles.
Yuan Xuan’s bottle could predict the weather. The bottle would usually have tiny water droplets the size of rice grains appearing like dew. As rain approached, these droplets would gradually increase in size, indicating that it was going to rain. When the droplets started to decrease, the rainy period would end, with the weather becoming sunny. If we can explain this phenomenon with air humidity, then the bottle obtained by Zhang Xiu Cai is even more mysterious.
Zhang Xiu Cai’s bottle could display the date according to the Chinese lunar calendar. On the first day of the month, a small black dot would appear on the bottle, similar in size to a bean. As the days went by, the black dot would grow in size. When it reached the 15th day, the entire bottle would turn black. But after the 15th day, the black area on the bottle would gradually decrease, and on the last day of the month, the black dot would completely disappear, returning the bottle to its original state.
Unfortunately, due to being underground for such a long time, a small stone got stuck in the bottle opening that couldn’t be removed, no matter how hard Zhang Xiu Cai tried to brush or pick it off. Zhang Xiu Cai ended up using a tool to knock it off, but it caused a small piece of the bottle’s opening to break, which was quite regrettable. Zhang Xiu Cai placed flowers inside the bottle and witnessed the miracle of the flowers blooming and bearing fruit, just like when flowers fall and bear fruit on trees.
These two stories about ancient bottles hold a certain level of mystery and wonder. They remind us of the ingenuity and marvels the ancient Chinese people created.