Shapely squash

By Wang Kaihao and Xu Lin ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-10-31 09:46:56

Shapely squash

Liu uses a plastic rope to tie up a growing gourd in his garden.

"It's difficult to say how many days I have to wait after they begin to grow. It's all based on my observation and different natural conditions," Liu says.

He goes to the garden every day to make sure gourds are growing in the direction that he wants. If not, he will adjust the ropes.

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However, rope alone won't produce the most amazing figures. Liu must rely on his hands to produce features like a swan's crooked neck.

"The whole process is like a game as well as a gamble. I never know whether I will get the exact gourd shape I want, " he says.

He says he usually bends the slim fruit little by little between noon and 3 pm on sunny days, when the high temperature and sunshine make gourds soft.

"Sometimes I cannot even finish one piece in an hour," he says, because even with extreme care "it is easy to break the fruit".

A gourd with a figure 8 knot made in 2009 is a personal favorite. The knotting took several days. Once the gourd dried, Liu scrupulously painted it for display in his living room. He couldn't do it again today, he says, because the climate in the past few years has not been dry enough to give gourds the needed combination of strength and flexibility.

He also keeps grafting and breeding new types of gourds.

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