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The Great Versatility of Gourds
The 3rd Exhibition Gallery, Life Science Hall
December 26, 2012 – June 6, 2013

If they speak, they are wind; if they are silent, they are gourds.
The gourd, a kind of melon found throughout tropical and sub-tropical areas, is widely known as bottle gourd or calabash. When gourds are ripe, their skin becomes woody, making them easy to engrave and paint. Gourds come in a variety of shapes – huge and round, or small and bottle-shaped, or slim and more than a meter long. “Give me food in a calabash…” This traditional song highlights the past importance of the calabash as a household item. A couple of generations ago the gourd was commonly used as an eating and drinking utensil for daily life in many Caribbean countries.

Also, in China, the gourd has long been used as food and medicine, and its hard shell as a bottle, a dipper and even a musical instrument. Aside from their traditional uses as above, the gourd has found a place in Chinese art. Thanking to their exquisite curves and simple look, gourd carving is thought to go back as far as the Tang Dynasty (618–907).

The gourd plays an important role in Chinese culture not only because of its practicability but also its auspicious association. Gourds enjoy a big popularity among Chinese people: The gourd’s trailing vines and many seeds are an important charm symbol for a large family with many children. The gourd’s Chinese pronunciation brings auspicious associations of warding off evil spirits and disease, having happiness, good fortune, long life, and promotion.

Gourd carving in Taiwan started to take off in the 1980s under the guidance of a man named Kung Yi-fang. Inspired by tales of a magical gourd wielded by demons in a journey to the West, Kung is able to produce unique sculptural pieces by using a variety of different kinds of gourd and his own gourd sculpting technique, and use cords to coax the still-growing gourds into whatever shape he desires through the use of binding system.

The Great Versatility of Gourds The Great Versatility of Gourds
Mr. Kung & His Works
The Great Versatility of Gourds

The Great Versatility of Gourds opened at the Museum’s 3rd exhibition gallery features amazing collection of gourd handicrafts from Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, National Museum of Taiwan History, National Taiwan Museum, and Kung Yi-fang. Highlights in this exhibition include the time lapse of the gourd life, a couple of Atayal gourd bottles, a Peru rod sand bell, and many precious pieces artworks of Kung Yi-fang. The exhibition also serves to encourage craft producers to see the calabash as a craft resource that can be used to create beautiful world of art and craft.

The Great Versatility of Gourds
Time Lapse
The Great Versatility of Gourds
Atayal Gourd Bottle
The Great Versatility of Gourds
Peru Rod Sand Bell

“The exhibits on display are quite impressive,” noted Dr. Sun Wei-hsin, the Museum’s director, “because it shows the gourd as a receptacle, as an ornamental work of art, as wall hanging, as a musical instrument. It speaks to the versatility and talent of our artists and craft producers.” “I encourage as many visitors as possible to view this calabash exhibition before or during Chinese New Year holidays to feel happiness and good luck in person.”

  • Admission is FREE.
  • Related educational programs: Jan. 24, 25, 31 & Feb. 1, 2013; 9:30am & 1:30pm
  • Program registration: NT$100

The Gourd exhibition is organized by the National Museum of Natural Science. Generous support is from Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, National Museum of Taiwan History, National Taiwan Museum, and gourd carver Kung Yi-fang.
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