WKD - Gourd Hyootan


Gourd Hyootan and Catfish Namazu

CLICK for original LINK


The Gourd, the Catfish and Daruma

This Daruma painted on a gourd comes from the famous Daruma temple Hoorin-ji in Kyoto. To make the conection with Daruma and the humble gourd, we do not have to stretch too far. There is a fish to be caught with a gourd, and here is how it is done in ZEN circles.

First take a look at the painting.
The bottom of the painting shows a small river running into what looks like a swamp.
Reeds grow in the shallow water and bamboo is growing on the bank.
There seem to be tall mountains in the background, but there is so much mist or fog that we cannot see them very well. There must be a lot of humidity there! In the center of the painting stands the shabby looking figure of a man. His face is covered with whiskers and his clothes are ragged, but what is even more curious is the fact that he is carrying a gourd with both hands! Still stranger yet is that he is holding his gourd down towards an enormous catfish in the water below!
What on earth could this man be doing? And what could possibly be the topic of this work? This is truly a mysterious and one-of-a-kind painting.

"Hyoonenzu (hyonenzu) 瓢鯰図" by Josetsu.
Kyoto Art Museum 京都博物館

Zen koans are ment to tackle from various aspects and some approaches are quite unique.
The best way to catch a catfish is
by pressing down on it with a gourd.
Better still, one should grease the gourd first.
Best of all, one should grease the catfish first.

. . . . .

Next we have another Chinese story about a fancy gourd and some educational value for life from the famous Taoist Chuang Tsu.
"Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu, "The king of Wei gave me some seeds of a huge gourd. I planted them, and when they grew up, the fruit was big enough to hold five piculs. I tried using it for a water container, but it was so heavy I couldn't lift it. I split it in half to make dippers, but they were so large and unwieldy that I couldn't dip them into anything.
It's not that the gourds weren't fantastically big -
but I decided they were no use and so I smashed them to pieces."


source : sayama/travelogue

From Makiba no Yu Onsen まきばの湯, Saitama


The catfish (namazu)
is quite a unique animal in Japanese lore.
"Namazu range in form and function from being actual catfish inhabiting the rivers and lakes of Japan (although there is no specific species that corresponds to namazu), to mythological giant
catfish once strongly associated with natural disasters, especially earthquakes, to literary, artistic, *religious* and political symbols, to objects of contemporary popular culture."

The story of our Man with a Gourd is also treated in a humorous manner.
"This interesting painting features, in the foreground, a *ragged looking man* trying to catch or hold down a catfish. The catfish has moved into relatively open water and is about to enter a wide area overgrown with weeds.
Catching it would have been easier while it was still in the narrow stream. And anyway, why bother? Perhaps the man's apparently futile efforts are a metaphor for the futile attempts of
humans to bring calm and order to their world, whether in the realm of nature or in the realm of society. The man trying to catch the catfish may, in other words, be trying to stop the calamities and upheavals of the time. Is there, however, even a remote chance of him succeeding?
The odds look nearly impossible. In his dogged persistence, is the man an idealist, a fool, both, or what?"

. Namazu なまず/ 鯰 catfish in legends and toys .


Let us go back to the gourd and Japan.

There are some villages, which produce articles made out of gourds for sale, for examples dolls and decorations. Gourd containers were used to keep medicine or water on a long trip. At buckwheat noodle shops (sobaya そば屋) they are used to keep some spices on the table.
As a toy for children the gourd has been used since olden times. In the town of Utsunomiya (Tochigi prefecture) we find some gourds with Daruma either painted or Daruma painted on a piece of transparent paper and stuck on a gourd to imitate a roly-poly Daruma doll (hyootan okiagari 瓢箪起上がり). Sometimes the bottom of the gourd was opened and it was filled with little pebbles to make it rattle when shaken.

. . . . .


praising Amida in the cold, kan nenbutsu 寒念仏

on a hyotan 瓢箪 gourd

. Winter Ascetic Practises (kangyoo) .


Tateyama (Toyama prefecture)
is another area of growing gourds.
One of the three most holy mountains of Japan is located in Tateyama. In olden times there was the custom for boys of 15 years to hang a gourd filled with rice wine at the belt, climb to the top of this mountain and get some sacred rice wine to drink after coming down the mountain to celebrate their "coming of age" and being accepted as a grown-up.


. . . CLICK here for Photos !


Hyootan sama ひょうたんサマ

In Oita prefecture at the Shibayama Hachiman Shrine
of the village of Chitose the unique and funny "Gourd Festival" is held since 800 years ago. The main actor called "Dear Mr. Gourd" (Hyootan-sama) is dressed in bright scarlet red, with a large gourd of about 80 cm on his head and another large gourd holding about 5.4 liters of sacred rice wine hanging at his belt. He wears large straw sandals of more than one meter length and 21 kilos weight, walking the streets of the village shouting:
"For a good harvest, for your good health, here comes the sacred rice wine!"
This festival is held each year on the first Sunday in December in the town of Chitose.


. . . CLICK here for Photos !


hyootan yookai 瓢箪妖怪 Gourd Yokai Monster

- source : Matt on facebook -

kabocha yookai かぼちゃ妖怪 pumpkin Yokai Monster

source : japaaan.com/archives

Hyotan and Namazu 瓢箪となまず 

source : www.nichibun.ac.jp


 WASHOKU ... wafers
The Black Ships and Earthquakes 黒船, kurofune

. Daruma on a Catfish ナマズの上に達磨  

Do not mix with
Namasu vinegar dressing


© PHOTO : だるまさん色々


From Hyogo Prefecture

© PHOTO : ~popyah


© PHOTO : hyoutanlamp.blog.shinobi.jp
Lamps from Gourds


PHOTO : crokittycats flickr ...


Hui Tzu said to Chuang Tzu,

"The king of Wei gave me some seeds of a huge gourd. I planted them, and when they grew up, the fruit was big enough to hold five piculs. I tried using it for a water container, but it was so heavy I couldn't lift it. I split it in half to make dippers, but they were so large and unwieldy that I couldn't dip them into any thing.
It's not that the gourds weren't fantastically big - but I decided they were no use and so I smashed them to pieces."

Chuang Tzu said,
"You certainly are dense when it comes to using big things!
... Now you had a gourd big enough to hold five piculs. Why didn't you think of making it into a great tub so you could go floating around the rivers and lakes, instead of worrying because it was too big and unwieldy to dip into things! Obviously you still have a lot of underbrush in your head!"

The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu
source : Translated by Burton Watson

. Chinese background of Japanese kigo .


Calabash, calebasse, gourd 瓢箪 hyootan
Lagenaria siceraria var. gourda
Flaschenkürbis; Kalebasse

kigo for late summer

. kanpyoo muku 干瓢剥く (かんぴょうむく )
cutting small stripes of calabash
kanpyoo hosu 干瓢干す(かんぴょうほす) drying the calabash stripes


kigo for early autumn

hyootan 瓢箪(ひょうたん)gourd
..... fukube 瓢(ふくべ)Fukube gourd
..... aofukube 青瓢 (あおふくべ) green gourd
..... aobyootan 青瓢箪(あおびょうたん)
..... hyakunari 百生り(ひゃくなり) "growing in hundreds"
..... sennari 千生り(せんなり)"growing in thousands"

. . . . .

kigo for late autumn

hyon no mi 瓢の実 (ひょんのみ) calabash fruit
isunoki no mi 蚊母樹の実(いすのきのみ)
sarubue 猿笛(さるぶえ)"monkey's flute"
saruhyoo 猿瓢(さるひょう)
kihyon きひょん、bunshiboku 蚊子木(ぶんしぼく)

tanefukube 種瓢 (たねふくべ) gourd seeds
tane-uri, taneuri 種瓜 gourd with many seeds

reishi 茘枝 (れいし) bitter gourd
..... tsuru reishi 蔓茘枝(つるれいし)
nigauri 苦瓜(にがうり) "bitter gourd"
gooya ゴーヤ Goya, bitter gourd
Momordica charantia
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

. . . . .

taikutsu na gogo ni narisoo ao-fukube

it looks like
another boring afternoon . . .
this green gourd

Tamura Kiyoko 田村清子

. Boredom (taikutsu) and haiku  

. . . . .

. Gourds (uri) and melons as KIGO  



Great link to more gourd information
- source : blog.some-u.com


Calabashes in Kenya

We have calabashes in Kenya too, and all of us, even in Nairobi, use them for special occasions. Upcountry, they may be the normal everyday cooking and eating vessels in many parts of the country.

Photo and Text : Isabelle Prondzynski

. Calabashes kigo in Kenya  

is a drought resistant plant belonging to the pumpkin family. It creeps along the ground or along fences. It can grow naturally on its own or it can be planted. Once it germinates during the rain season, it grows and produces white flowers which in turn yield many fruits that look exactly like pumpkins, but have a hard green outer shell when young, but turns brownish grey when mature. Calabash plants can be planted in gardens/shambas or can grow spontaneously in places such as old buildings, human settlements and abandoned gardens.

Calabash fruits are used to make traditional gourds which are used to make milk and porridge sour and store water.
To make a traditional gourd, a calabash fruit is picked when mature, its top cut off and then some water is put into the calabash fruit and left to rot for some days. Once the inside starts stinking, a stick is used to poke the inside walls of the calabash fruit until all the soft tissue have peeled off along with the seeds. This stinking mixture is then disposed of and warm water is used several times to rinse the calabash fruit, which is then put in the sun to dry. After this stage, the calabash fruit becomes a gourd in which milk and porridge is stored to turn sour. A gourd is also used to store and carry water.

Gourds are sometimes beautifully decorated according to one's artistic skills, ability and taste.

To make a calabash,
a mature calabash fruit is cut into two equal halves and the seeds scooped out. More scrabbling is done in the calabash until all the soft tissue is completely removed. Warm water is used to rinse the calabash and then it is put in the sun to dry. Once it is dry, decorations are effected according to one's choice and taste.

In many traditional homes in Kenya, calabashes are used to take porridge, water, traditional brews and many other uses.

Patrick Wafula, Kenya

Kenya Saijiki

Patrick's PHOTOS about the calabash


. fukube saiku ふくべ細工 handicraft with FUKUBE gourds .

. MORE - - - Melons and gourds (uri)

hyootanishi, hyootan-ishi 瓢箪石 the Gourd Stone - legend from Nagano
. Sake 酒 rice wine for regional rituals .


ユニークだるま展 Exhibition of unique Daruma figures

starting January 1, 2016.
at サイボクハムの温泉「花鳥風月」
- source : 4travel.jp/travelogue -


- #hyootan #hyotan #gourd -


Anonymous said...

Tsuba with the Mule of the Taoist Immortal Chokaro Emerging from a Magic Gourd

The horse at the upper left of this tsuba is emerging from the gourd at the lower right. This is an illustration of the idiom "like a horse coming out of a gourd," which is used to describe unexpected things.

The saying may have developed from stories of the Chinese immortal Chokaro (Ch. Zhang Guo [Chang Kuo]) who carried his magical mule in a gourd. On the reverse, the phrase "Ningen banji" is inscribed along the upper and left sections. These are the first words of the proverb "Human affairs are like Saio's horse."

This proverb means that things which may appear to be good fortune can sometimes be bad luck and visa versa. It comes from a story about an old man named Saio who had good luck and bad luck brought to him through incidents with his horse.

Anonymous said...

Fengshui objects lists this with a brass replica of a carved Chinese gourd:

This special bottle gourd has been an icon of longevity, good health, and prosperity for many centuries.

There are many symbols of longevity; one of these is Wu Lou, which can bring a profusion of blessings into the home. This special bottle gourd has been an icon of longevity, good health, and prosperity for many centuries. The Wu Lou, also known as the Hu Lu or calabash is an important tool used in enhancing the effects of Feng Shui.

The traditional of the Wu Lou started in ancient China, when gourds served the purpose of carrying water on long embarkments. In addition to simply water, medicine was also stored in the gourds; this is where the image of it as a “symbol of health, vitality and immortality ” was derived.

The shape itself of the Wu Lou plays an important role in its image; it is a depiction of heaven and earth unified. The top half of the gourd symbolizes heaven, and the bottom half is earth. The use of the gourd by humans indicates the harmony between earth, heaven and humanity.

The Wu Lou or HuLu is also said to have the ability to absorb bad chi, for the reason that Taoist monks use the gourd to incarcerate evil spirits. According to Chinese mythology, monks and deities of the Taoist belief made use of the gourd, trapping evil presences inside to prevent them from causing misdemeanour. This is where the Wu Lou got the ideology of being able to absorb negative chi in your surrounding.

When a Wu Lou is being used for Feng Shui, it is imperative to attach a red thread around the “neck” to enhance its energy. This wulou is engraved with the feng shui symbols of the Eight Immortals and eight auspicious objects.

The Eight Immortals are central to Taoist philosophy and are especially powerful when appear in this Period of 8 (2004 to 2024), so are the eight auspicious or magical objects. With so many elements on this Wu Lou connected to the ruling number 8 in this current period, the power of this good luck symbol is said to increase by many folds! This Feng Shui wulou definitely stands out among the rest.

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

hara no naka he ha hanukekerashi tane fukube

the teeth seems to have fallen out
inside the stomach -
seeds of a gourd

Tr. Herbert Jonsson

MORE about teeth

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

O-mamori amulet in form of a hyotan gourd ひょうたん形のお守り
Nissekiji Ooiwasan 大岩山日石寺 Oiwasan, Nisseki-Ji

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

hyootan 瓢箪 Hyotan gourd art motives

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

- KAPPA - 河童 / かっぱ / カッパ -
and hyotan 瓢箪

Gabi Greve said...

Gourds 瓢箪 Hyōtan
a very long and well-illustrated essay
The first mention of gourds in Japanese literature was in the Nihongi (日本紀: 720 A. D.) where it relates an account of a story which ostensibly took place in 379. The people who lived near Kahashima River were being terrorized by a large poisonous snake which lived in its waters. A hero was needed so one was called upon – the warden of the district, “a man of fierce temper and great bodily strength.” He looked down and “flung into the water three whole calabashes, saying: ‘Thou art continually belching up poison and therewithal plaguing travellers. I will kill thee, thou water snake. If thou canst sink these calabashes, then will I take myself away, but if thou canst not sink them, then will I cut up thy body.’ ” The calabashes did the trick, of course.

Gabi Greve said...

Legends about hyootan
25 to epxlore . . .
- Niigata 新潟県

meshi kuwanu nyoobo 飯食わぬ女房 a wife who does not eat
Once upon a time, a bucket maker said he wanted a wife who does not eat rice. A man came with his daughter and the bucket maker got her as wife. But she was a monster with a mouth at the back of her head, so the bucket maker chased her away.
He made a large bucket and put some hyootan 瓢箪 gourds and rice grains inside, which he had put on needles. The wife, which was actually hebi 蛇 a serpent, came with her children and ate the grains, but they got stuck with the needles and died.