On July 6, 2018, an article titled "Belt and Road and Gourd Culture" hit the headline of Guangming Culture Weekend · Yaqu Column on the 16th layout of Guangming Daily and Guangming Net. Hu Qingxue (pen name: Hulu), the author, was born in the birthplace of "The canzonet of Yimeng Mountainous Area. Since gourd was called hulu in ancient times, he used Hu Lu as his pseudonym to symbolize his surname "Hu" and his identity as a native of Shandong (commonly known as Lu in short). Hu Lu, currently the Vice President of Qufu Normal University, is a professor of fine arts, MA supervisor, director of the Chinese Folklore Society, founder of the contemporary "Gourd Painting School", famous painter, and renowned scholar of gourd culture research.
fulu, the homophonic word of hulu (gourd) in some dialects, represents Chinese people's longing for a better life, which is an important part of the national cultural genes. Ji Xianlin, a famous Chinese scholar, mentioned in his commentary on Liu Yaohan's article "On Chinese Gourd Culture" that "ethnic groups in China are indeed closely tied and have a common gourd culture tradition." The natural and elegant outline of gourd embodies the idea of “appreciating and pursing harmony”. "Both the left and right gourd ladles can hold thousands of fortunes; both the upper globe and the lower globe can accommodate all things in the world". The gourd contains a multi-level auspicious culture, indicating happiness, peace, harmony, more children, etc. It can be said that the gourd exemplifies the essence of excellent traditional Chinese culture.
In fact, not only do Chinese people love the gourd, many people along "the Belt and Road" have a common love for the gourd and gourd culture. It is generally believed that the origin of gourds is Africa, and there has been a long history for the Chinese and African people to grow gourds. At the same time, historical documents show that the Indian people also regard the gourd as an embodiment of “prosperity of descendants”, which is verified in Ji Xianlin's translation of Ramayana, the great India epic. In the seventeenth poem of chapter thirty-seven of the first part of that epic, it reads, "Sumati, a tiger-like person, gave birth to a long-shaped gourd. When people broke the gourd, sixty thousand babies jumped out of it". Gold Eagle, the folktale of Mongolia, also shows that gourd is an embodiment of breeding in Mongolia. As daily necessities and auspicious handicrafts, gourds are loved by people from all walks of life in countries along the “Belt and Road”. Afghans in Central Asia have the habit of making cosmetic containers and snuff bottles out of gourds on festive occasions. In Israel, Turkey and some Arab countries, gourds are commonly used as smoking sets and decorative handicrafts. Gourd culture also boasts a long history in the United States, Japan, and South American countries.
In this sense, gourd culture could be a tie binding the countries along the Belt and Road. As everyone knows, the Belt and Road initiative is open and inclusive, and its scope is still expanding. However, countries involved still bear large differences in political systems, religious systems, and economic development models. Under such circumstance, a common cultural carrier will serve as a bridge for communication and cooperation for these countries along the road. China and other countries have consensus on the gourd entity, the gourd craftsmanship and the aesthetic habits of the gourd culture. This cultural "commonness" attached to gourd is very valuable. Based on gourd culture and other traditional culture, we can strengthen non-governmental exchanges to lay the foundation for building mutual trust and enhancing cooperation among countries along the “Belt and Road”.
Gourd culture boasts a long history in China, where gourd has long been planted and worshipped as a totem. Some gourd seeds have been unearthed at Hemudu Site in Zhejiang Province, which enjoys a history of 7000 years. There are also poems like "our people and our descendants grow and prosper, just like the spreading gourds" in the Book of Songs. Chinese gourd culture is not only widely studied by Chinese scholars, but also gaining attention from foreign experts studying gourd culture for its great influence. For example, a German scholar called Wu Senji once wrote the article "Significance of Gourd in Chinese Culture". Japanese scholars Kominami Ichiro (1991) and Kokubu Naoichi (1981) respectively wrote about the Chinese gourd myth in articles "The Universe in the Pot" and "Pot as Sacrifice--Taiwan Folklore Ethnography". Traditional Chinese gourd culture has been recognized as a treasure in the world's gourd culture. In addition, the current Chinese gourd culture industry enjoys the necessary capital, market and talents. China's gourd culture industry has a large stock of professionals, mainly including skilled craftsmen in the fields of gourd cultivation, paper-cutting and engraving, as well as experts on gourd culture such as designers, painters, folklorists and collectors. The quality of Chinese gourd raw materials and the exquisite workmanship are well-known overseas, and the marketing basis of its cultural products is good.
As an old proverb says, "All things are produced by the Tao, and nourished by its outflowing operation. They receive their forms according to the nature of each, and are completed according to the circumstances of their condition". Under the “Belt and Road” initiative, China’s gourd culture can be carried forward and form a synergy with other excellent Chinese traditional cultures to enhance people-to-people connectivity along the road.