The world's oldest molded fruit being kept in Japan

Japan Probe has posts concerning heart-shaped melons and watermelons being sold in Japan. They seem to be made by putting young fruits into heart-shaped molds and growing them in the molds.

Those posts remided me of an article [Japanese] concerning an ancient molded fruit being kept in a Buddhist temple in Japan. According to the article, Hōryūji temple in Nara has an ancient gourd pot called Hasshin Hyōko (八臣瓢壷), or a gourd pot of eight retainers. It has, on its surface, relieves of a hermit and eight famous retainers who served for ancient Chinese emperors. Research on the gourd pot has shown that the relieves were not carved by edged tools but made by growing the gourd in a mold template.

A number of molded gourds were made in China during the period of Qing Dyanasty (16-19th century), since the fourth emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) was fond of using molded gourds for his daily life. Accordingly, quite a few molded gourds made after the 17th century are being preserved in museums in China and Taiwan. The Hasshin Hyōko is, however, apparently older than those gourds, because a list of the treasures of the temple, which was edited by a Buddhist monk Kenshin (顕真) in 1238, included the very gourd pot Hasshin Hyōko. Thus, it is certain that the temple already had it in 1238. According to the above mentioned article, iconography of the relieves suggests that it was made in around 9th century. Although exact age is unknown, it is most likely that it is the oldest extant molded fruit in the world.