Peaches in Ancient China
Originating from China, Peaches or Tao zi were first cultivated by farmers around 4000 years ago. Emperors loved to feast on Taozi, so if peaches happen to be your favorite fruit, you have noble taste. In Chinese literature and art, peaches symbolize longevity and are portrayed as magical, divine fruits. One of poet Tao Qian’s most famous works is titled Peach Blossom Spring:
All at once he came upon a grove of blossoming peach trees which lined either bank for hundreds of paces. No tree of any other kind stood amongst them, but there were fragrant flowers, delicate and lovely to the eye, and the air was filled with drifting peachbloom.Tao Qian (translation via Columbia University)
Tao Qian wrote this poem during a period of instability and warfare. This essay describes the fateful discovery of an ethereal utopia where people lived in simplicity and harmony with each other as well as nature. Through this poem, peaches embody the yearning for a peaceful world, a consonance we haven’t fully achieved yet thousands of years later, it seems.
Peaches in Journey to the West
One figure in Chinese mythology that all Chinese children are bound to know is The Monkey King, or Sun Wukong from the 16th century novel “Journey to the West.” The story follows Wukong, a pig-faced demon, a fish spirit, and a Buddhist monk who journeys to India to retrieve sacred scrolls and attain enlightenment.
So, what fateful event led the Monkey King to embark on this journey? Peaches. Magical, divine peaches. The Queen Mother of the West throws an annual Peach Banquet in Heaven where prestigious guests are invited to feast on the Peaches of Immortality. Whoever eats these divine fruits are blessed with youth, wisdom, or the ability to fly. The rarest peachest can even give someone eternal life.
However, the mischievous Monkey King secretly eats all of the most powerful peaches and wreaks havoc in the heavenly courts with his new-found strength. It was Buddha himself who saves the party by banishing Wukong below a mountain for 500 years. Eventually, Wukong redeems himself through the long and difficult journey to India.
Sadly, peaches won’t give us superpowers like the Monkey King so we’ll have to confront the challenges of life as regular human beings. It’s alright, the fruit of hardwork is the sweetest!