Hu Lu – Folk Object


“So my dad got me two hulu because it’s like a lucky charm, and they’re like very round. I’m not really sure why they’re lucky, but I know there’s a show called Hu Lu Wa, and like there’s little guys who come out of the hulu and beat evil people up. Yeah, so my dad was like these two things are very, like, brings you luck and safety, security, whatever… good stuff.”


The teller is a first-generation Chinese American raised in the Bay Area of Northern California. She received the two hulu, or calabash gourds, as a gift from her father, who purchased the items while visiting a riverside ancient city area in China. The teller’s family is from Shanghai, but she notes that the hulu is a common symbol found throughout the country. 


Within Chinese culture, the calabash is a common charm for luck, fertility, and protection, charms associated with it due to its shape and also historic use as containers for items like medicine. It is interesting to note that while the teller confesses she doesn’t truly understand the meaning behind the calabash, she is able to find personal meaning through the association of the gourds with the show Hu Lu Wa, or Calabash Brothers. Hu Lu Wa is a popular Chinese animated cartoon in which seven brothers born from a set of rainbow calabash gourds must protect their home from two demons, and it remains a common cultural experience for many in the Chinese diaspora of the current generation*. The teller’s association of this folk object with the show  points to how popular culture and media in the modern age influences how folklore is passed on and communicated, particularly to members of a diaspora and those who have a certain degree of separation from the culture and may not organically learn of specific meanings otherwise. 
*Note from the collector: I as a Chinese person raised in the US have bonded with many First-Generation Chinese Americans and Chinese immigrants over knowledge of Hu Lu Wa and other Chinese animations like it. Based on personal observation, I think it is common for Chinese parents born in the 70s to show these to their children as a way to connect our childhood to their own, which explains the popularity of the show amongst Chinese people of my generation in spite of the chronological distance between the 80s and the 2000s. Hu Lu Wa and other shows made by Shanghai Animation Film Studios occupy a similar role in Chinese pop culture that classic Disney movies have in American pop culture.