Hu Lu and other experts and scholars received warm welcome from Dr. Frank A. Einhellig, Executive Vice President, Mr. Baker, Vice President and other leaders of Missouri State University. The two sides introduced respectively their internationalization initiatives, and further discussed teacher-student exchanging and mutual visits, scientific research cooperation and cultural and artistic exchanges, and reached agreements on future cooperation. After the talks, accompanied by Ms. Vonda K. Yarberry, Head of Art and Design Department of Missouri State University, the delegation visited the studios of the Department, watched the exhibition of works by teachers and students, and visited classroom teaching. In a sketch class, Mr. Hu saw several differently modelled gourds, and then he talked with the teacher and students about gourd culture. Mr. Hu said he would participate in the school’s art festival and give a gourd culture art performance. Ms. Vonda K. Yarberry, as well as the teacher and students believed that the gourd culture art performance from China would highlight the year’s festival, and they were waiting with eager for the performance.
In the afternoon, Missouri State University’s art festival was held at the university’s international center. As a special activity and highlight of the festival, “Glamour of the Gourd – Gourd Culture Tour along the Silk Road” U.S. Exhibition with a Chinese flavor appeared on the scene.
The opening ceremony began at 2 pm, and the atmosphere was warm with the national flags of the two countries and the Missouri State University’s flag hung above the stage. Mr. Raymond Conan, First Vice President of the American Gourd Society, Ms. Waterman, president of Missouri Gourd Display Association, Vonda K. Yarberry, Head of Art and Design Department, teachers and students of the art department, local gourd culture lovers, and representatives of international students from nearly 100 countries attended the opening ceremony. The ceremony was hosted by Mr. Baker, Vice President of Missouri State University and famous host of Zach public television network.
At the ceremony, Mr. Baker introduced the delegation of the Chinese artists headed by Mr. Hu, and praised “Glamor of the Gourd – Gourd Culture Tour along the Silk Road” for its contribution to the artistic value of the art festival, for which he expressed his heartfelt appreciation.
Mr. Conan, Vice President of the American Gourd Society, gave a speech at the opening ceremony. He spoke highly of the exchanges of gourd culture between the two countries, and gave warm welcome to the famous Chinese gourd culture scholar Hu Lu, and expressed his sincere admiration for Mr. Hu for his contribution to the globalization of gourd culture. He recalled his journey in recent years to China exploring gourd culture, in which he learned that the gourd in China not only symbolizes happiness, but also helps people to gain happiness. In China’s history, the gourd can find its use in lots of aspects, and several centuries ago, they were made into a variety of things such as bowls, vases, cricket cages, instruments and figurines. Then he introduced the latest developments in American gourd culture. Mr. Conan expressed his willingness to use this exhibition as an opportunity to enhance the cultural and artistic exchanges between the two countries.
Mr. Conan also read the letter from Ms. Cecil Garrison, President of the American Gourd Society, who, on behalf of thousands of gourd culture lovers across America, expressed her sincere welcome to Mr. Hu, and apologized for her absence caused by her business in California. She wrote in the letter, “I am most grateful that we can share with you our common interest and love for the gourd culture. The gourd is the most important plant in humankind’s history. Therefore, we get to understand the cultural inheritance and association between cultures. Like what Chinese ancestors did centuries ago, we took pleasure in the process of planting, decorating and appreciating the gourd. It brings to our families the same happiness and satisfaction as it brings to you. I am glad to learn that Mr. Conan, Vice President of the American Gourd Society, Ms. Waterman, president of Missouri Gourd Display Association, and others heads of the Association are here with your delegation and your host Missouri State University. I am sure you will be infected with the happiness of staying with each other.”
Later, Ms. Waterman, President of the Missouri Gourd Display Association expressed sincere welcome to Mr. Hu and his delegation. She extended warm congratulations on the gourd culture exchange activity in the United States and made a brief introduction to Missouri Gourd Display Association, a non-profit organization founded in 1997, which is the 14th among the 25 branches of American Gourd Society. Its membership has now reached some 100 across the United States, all of whom have talent in gourd art and enjoy sharing. They hold meetings in Missouri four times each year, and in every April, there is an annual gourd exhibition. The Association aims at supporting artistic progress by the medium of gourd art, encouraging the youth and adults to learn more about the gourd art by forms of symposium and contest.
When talking about the affection for the gourd, Ms. Waterman said, “I was a nurse assistant before retirement and worked in operating rooms for 29 years. One day I went to Branson in Missouri with my husband, where I saw many gourds sold at a price of $35, though they just drilled a hole in the gourds. Then we visited Silver Dollar City, where we saw many beautifully decorated and painted gourds. It occurred to me that ‘I could make it too’. After returning home, I searched the Internet for gourd art, and this is the beginning of my fascination with the gourd. Since then, the gourd had changed my life. I like to create works of art using different techniques on the gourds, such as sculpting, painting, wood carving and so on. Finally the gourds will show what they want to be.” She remarked that she was very grateful to Mr. Hu for inviting members of the Missouri Gourd Display Association to the art event. She hoped to have an opportunity to visit Mr. Hu in Confucius’ hometown in the future to learn more about China's gourd culture.
Mr. Hu then addressed on this occasion. Firstly, he expressed sincere appreciation to people who had offered great support to the “Glamour of the Gourd – Gourd Culture Tour along the Silk Road”, including Dr. Frank A. Einhellig, Executive Vice President, Mr. Baker, Vice President, Mr. Zhang Peng from the International Office, Ms. Vonda K. Yarberry, Head of the Art and Design Department, Ms. Cecil Garrison, President of the American Gourd Society, Mr. Conan, Vice President of the American Gourd Society, Ms. Waterman, President of Missouri Gourd Society and friends from all walks of life in the United States.
Mr. Hu remarked that the gourd is one of the ancient totems of the Chinese nation as well as one of the world-famous “Achievements of Humanities”, and it enjoys cultural profoundness. The displayed gourd-themed flower-and-bird paintings attempted to achieve mutual exchanges with ancient gourd art works of America. “With the U.S. Exhibition activity, we hope to establish a sustained and in-depth partnership with friends in American gourd art circles.”
The gourd symbolized safety, auspiciousness and harmony in China, and there were many gourd-related stories, said Mr. Hu. For example, in the Lancang River basin of Yunnan Province, China, there is a movie Lu Sheng Love Story, a story of the Lahu ethnic group who call themselves a nationality having originated from the gourd. Males of this ethnic group learn to play the Lusheng at the age of six or seven, and this ancient instrument will accompany them for their whole lives. Taking the Lusheng as the clue, the movie tells the love story between Zhatuo, a bright and brave hero, and Nawa, a beautiful and kind heroine. They met and fell in love at first sight during the day of sacrifice. The sacrifice activity lasted until the evening. Following the local custom to express his love, Zhatuo took his courage to take off Nawa’s headcloth and ran into the woods. Nawa tailed after Zhatuo, but she lost the track of him for the darkness. Then, Zhatuo picked up the Lusheng and blew the love song Vow of Marriage. Nawa located him following the sound of the music, and the two expressed their love for each other.
Aqi, an elder of the village knew about their love and then went to Nawa’s family to make a marriage proposal for Zhatuo. Nawa’s mother expressed her satisfaction with the brave young man, and drank the engagement wine in the gourd with the elder Aqi, and in this way, the marriage was set. Zhatuo and Nawa happily met in front of a waterfall, and Zhatuo picked up the Lusheng to play the love song Vow of Marriage. Nawa snuggled up next to him and sang along.