Cultural Significance of Sweet Peaches
Sweet Georgia peaches have a legendary taste and provide excellent nutrition. But, what you may not know is that sweet peaches also have a legendary history. Peaches trace their roots to Asia where they were a rich part of the culture and folklore of the ancient far east.
Because sweet peaches originated in China, it is natural that there is a rich cultural significance for them there. In ancient times, Chinese people believed that the peach tree had greater vitality than any other tree because the blossoms appeared in the spring before the leaves had sprouted. Many ancient Chinese writings (from novels to poetry) also prominently featured peaches, peach branches and blossoms – frequently as a protection against evil. In some areas of China, ‘Peach Blossom Land’ is the term used to describe a haven of peace. One ancient scholar described Peach Blossom Land as a place where people are happy farmers and everyone is extremely hospitable. Sweet peaches also have a place in many religious rites and are often found on family alters. Illustrations oftentimes show elders or Buddha holding a peach.
As in China, sweet peaches are found in the history and mythology of Japan. The ancient semi-historical hero, Momotaro is said to have been born from a giant peach floating in the water. Momotaro or ‘Peach Boy’ grew up and had many adventures that included fighting evil. As in Chinese culture, the Japanese believe that peaches are associated with the elimination of misfortune and evil. One Japanese festival (Hinamatsuri, which translates as ‘doll’s festival’ or ‘girl’s festival’) celebrates the health and growth of young girls. Sweet peaches and peach blossoms are prominently featured during this festival as they are believed to have evil spirit banishing powers.
Peaches also have a prominent place in Korea and Vietnam as well. Sweet peaches have long been cultivated in Korea and are seen as the fruit of happiness, longevity, riches and honor. Koreans also consider the peach tree to be an immortal plant. In Vietnamese mythic history, the peach branch is used to send a message of victory and coming peace after a battle. Also, it is by a peach tree that lovers meet and fall in love. Peach blossoms signal spring in Vietnam and one of the symbols used during the Vietnamese new year is peach bonsai.
Sweet peaches have a rich cultural significance in the far east that only adds to their appeal. Whether depicted in mythology or as symbols of health and prosperity in modern day festivals, sweet peaches are still delicious!