The History and Legends of the Gourd

Evan Mantyk,  Contribution Editor

In ancient China, where the belief in the unity of heaven and humanity was deeply ingrained, the gourd held a special significance for the people who respected heaven and revered gods. With its homophonic association with “good fortune and prosperity” ("福祿") gourds carried the connotations of having abundant offspring and broad-mindedness. It often appeared in myths and legends alongside immortals and had an undeniable connection to the culture of Daoist spiritual cultivation.

In ancient China, the gourd was an essential ritual instrument used in ceremonies like the imperial ancestor ceremonies and wedding ceremonies. According to the Book of Rites, a gourd was used because it symbolized the nature of heaven and earth. Ancient scholars who studied the Book of Rites noted that the use of gourds in weddings signified the use of household utensils, marking the beginning of a husband and wife's life together.

According to the ancient Book of Etiquette and Ceremonies, a crucial part of ancient wedding rituals was wine in gourd ladles, where a gourd was divided into two ladles, each filled with wine for the bride and groom to drink. When these two ladles were brought together, they formed a complete gourd, symbolizing the unity of husband and wife who would share joys and sorrows for the rest of their lives. Over time, this tradition evolved into the modern practice of the wine-sharing ceremony at Chinese weddings. 

The gourd was also a significant material for making musical instruments. In one ancient text, it is mentioned as one of the eight materials used for creating musical instruments. The eight materials in the text are gold, stone, earth, leather, silk, wood, gourd, and bamboo. 

One Chinese idiom is “helping the world with a gourd” ("懸壺濟世") since the gourd was used as a vessel for carrying medicine and is closely associated with Daoist cultivation culture. Daoists were known for their mystical alchemy, including creating elixirs of immortality. In the tales of the Daoist immortal Hu Weng (壺翁), he is said to have saved people during epidemics with medicines in his magical gourd. Taoist figures in Chinese literature, such as Journey to the West and Investiture of the Gods, often have gourds. Among the legendary Eight Immortals of Taoism, the Immortal Tieguai Li was known for carrying gourds that contained miraculous elixirs. 

Shen Yun carries on this marvelous and mystical tradition, with its Enchanting Gourd Collection. May it bring you blessings from the realm of Immortals. You can also use these stylish and tasteful items to bring good fortune to your family and friends, expressing your wishes with a touch of sophistication and fashion.


Love the story; very educational and interesting! I think I’d like the jewelry more if it were a different color. (The gold and silver ones look the best)

Barbara Gay January 31, 2024

Thank you for this article. All related articles on these pages are also good viewing. Kudos!

Minerva L Chenoweth January 23, 2024

This article “The History and Legend of the Gourd” is interesting and informative. I enjoyed it immensely as it depicts just what the title alludes to. Kudos to writer and thank you for publishing this educational article.

Minerva Chenoweth January 23, 2024

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