The peach (tao 桃) symbolizes
peach charms are very commonly seen in China.
Peach wood is also believed to have a special power to keep away evil
The Chinese have traditionally placed a very high value on a long
life. With the immense influence of Confucianism,
placed on old age and the elderly enjoyed high respect and a life
of comparatively more
ease and less toil than those younger in age.
One of the greatest gifts a government minister could receive was the
Chinese character for longevity (shou
壽) written personally by the Emperor. Even persons of the lowest
social class who had attained great age were distinguished by the
Origins of the Peach Symbol
According to legend, the Queen
Mother of the West (xiwangmu
西王母) possessed a peach orchard near her
palace in the Kunlun mountains. The trees would only blossom
every 3,000 years and the fruit would take another 3,000 years to ripen.
It was believed that eating one of these peaches would bestow upon the
the same length of life as it took for the fruit to ripen -- 3,000
Another story, tells of the Queen Mother of the West visiting Emperor
Wu of the Han Dynasty in the year 110 AD. She brought with her
the peaches from her orchard. She ate two of the peaches and
explained that eating one fruit would allow the eater to live 3,000
years. The Emperor then asked her if he could keep the
seeds. The Queen Mother of the West at that moment saw Tung
Fang-So peeping at her through the window. She pointed at him and said
"that child has stolen three of my peaches and he is now 9,000 years
Traditionally, most Chinese families would have in
their homes for good
luck either pictures or small statues of the "Three Immortals".
One of these immortals is Shou
God of Longevity. He is usually shown with a
walking stick and carrying a peach to symbolize long life. (For more on
the "Three Immortals", please see lock
Peach Wood as an Amulet to
Dispel Evil Spirits
According to an ancient Chinese
text, "The Classic of Mountains and Seas" (shanhaijing 山海经), there was a very
large peach tree on Dushuo Mountain (dushuoshan
度朔山) whose branches formed an archway through which evil spirits could
pass between the spirit world and the earth. The Emperor of
Heaven (tiandi 天帝) was
concerned that the evil spirits might harm the people on earth and so
he assigned two brothers, Shen Tu (神荼) and Yu Lei (郁垒), to guard the
passageway. If the evil spirits caused any harm, the two brothers
were instructed to tie them up and feed them to the tigers which lived
at the base of the mountain.
In honor of the two brothers' bravery, they became known as the "Door
Gods" and a tradition gradually developed
to engrave their portraits in peach wood which were then hung on gates
and doors for protection from evil influences.
This tradition further evolved during the Song Dynasty when the peach
wood Door God charms (taofu
桃符) were replaced by spring couplets (chunlian
春联) which are auspicious verses written on red paper and hung above and
at the sides of doors and gates.
Swords, arrows and amulets
were also carved from peach wood in ancient times
to ward off evil spirits. This is because the Chinese word for
peach (tao 桃)
shares the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for "flee" or "run
away" (tao 逃).
Also in ancient China, parents would cut the pit or stone of a peach
into a type of lock and then tie one of the
these padlocks to each foot of the child using the same type of string
that was used to bind a queue (a long braid of hair hanging down the
back of the neck). It was believed that this practice would
confer longevity, bind the child to life and ward off evil influences.
It was believed that the wood used to make
a child's bed could also
contribute to future happiness. As a result, the most sought
after wood was peach wood. Other wood choices included that of
the Chinese jujube or date fruit
tree because the name of the tree (zao 枣) has the same pronunication
as the word for "early" or "soon" (zao
早). The hope was that the child would grow up and "early" on be
successful in the examination
system to obtain a position as a
government official. Wood from the pine tree was also acceptable
for a child's bed because pine trees are ever green and are associated
with longevity and the God
Because of the many taboos associated with the raising
silkworms, peach branches were inserted in the eaves of
sericulturist's homes to protect them from evil.
This is one side of an old Chinese peach charm.
There are two Chinese characters written in a very stylized seal script.
The characters are read right to left as chang ming (长命) which means "long
This is the reverse side of the charm.
The two Chinese characters are again written in a very stylized seal
The characters are read right to left as fu gui (富贵) meaning "wealth and
The charm is 45 mm in length and 35 mm in width.
The weight is 17.7 grams.
This is another example of an old Chinese peach charm
In this case, however, the inscription is written in regular script.
The two Chinese characters at the top are shou fu (寿福) which means "longevity
and good fortune".
The character at the bottom is shuang
(双) which means "both".
The inscription continues on the reverse side.
The two characters at the top are the same as that on the reverse side
of the other peach charm but are written in regular script.
The inscription therefore reads fu gui (富贵) which means "wealth and
The character at the bottom is quan
(全) which means "complete".
The entire charm inscription can thus be translated as "May you have
longevity and good fortune, and wealth and rank, both complete".
This charm is 47 mm in length and 27 mm in width.
The weight is 12.8 grams.
The Chinese characters comprising the inscription on this peach charm
are read in the following order: top right, bottom right, top left,
The inscription reads tian chang di
jiu (天长地久) which means "as eternal and unchanging as the