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July 31, 2014

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‘Peach of immortality’ in Chinese mythology

IN Chinese mythology, peento peaches were considered the “peach of immortality,” grown by the Heavenly Queen Mother. Today they are symbols of longevity and prosperity. Chinese people may eat peach-shaped dumplings on their birthday.

The peach-tree wood was said to ward off evil, so weapons were made of it, and its petals created an elixir of love.

Also known as Xiwangmu, the queen goddess lived in the Jade Pool in the Kunlun Mountains in western China. She had 3,600 peento trees in her garden, and the magical fruit was said to guarantee eternal youth. They were said to ripen the every 3,000th, 6,000th and 9,000th year.

Every 500 years the queen invited the eight immortals to a peento banquet. Once the Monkey King crashed the banquet, stole peaches and ruined the party.

Only two humans ever tasted the peentos — King Mu of the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century-770 BC) and Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

One day King Mu passed the Kunlun Mountains and met the Heavenly Queen Mother, who treated him with peentos and wine. He spent days at the Jade Pool but could never find it again.

Once the queen gave Emperor Wu four peaches as a magical gift of healing. The emperor was greatly impressed. Since peentos would only grow in the queen’s garden, he demanded his ministers steal some.

The emperor treasured the peentos so much that he collected the kernels and passed them down to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).


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