Peaches (Tao 桃)


Peach (Tao )

The peach is one of the most popular images in Chinese decorations, jewelry, paintings, and folk art.  If you like things Chinese, the peach is more than familiar to you.  But, besides being beautiful, what did it mean traditionally?  Why is it important?

From the ancient past, the peach tree has been considered sacred.  The wood, flower, and fruit were all beloved.  The wood was used to fight against evil; the flower often symbolized love; and the fruit was a symbol of a long life.

Long Life:  The fruit may be used to represent Shou-lao, the God of Longevity.  And we learn in the Journey to the West (a 16th Century Ming Dynasty novel) that Monkey, a charming and mischievous character, became immortal by stealing and eating peaches from Xi-wang-mu’s (Queen Mother of the West) palace orchard.  These scared peach trees blossom once every thousand years and only develop into fruit after another three thousand years.

Double peaches are an even more auspicious (meaning especially successful and lucky) symbol.  Double anything is good because it means the feeling, or sentiment, is twice as strong. So two peaches in a picture would mean something like “May you live a long life.”  As you may expect, this type of picture is popular at birthday celebrations.

References: A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols by Wolfram Eberhard 2001; Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art by Terese Tse Bartholomew 2006.

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