Chinese Peach Charms
Introduction to Peach Charms
The peach (tao 桃) symbolizes
and peach charms are very commonly seen in China.
Peach wood is also believed to have a special power to keep
away evil spirits.
The Chinese have traditionally placed a very high value on a
long life. With the immense influence of Confucianism, great reverence was
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
Origins of the
Peach Symbol for Longevity
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 eater the same length of life as it took for the
fruit to ripen -- 3,000 years.
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 seven
of 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 old."
Traditionally, most Chinese families would
have in their homes for good luck either pictures or small
statues of the "Three
One of these immortals is Shou (壽), the 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 charms.)
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.
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
shares the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for
"flee" or "run away" (tao
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
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
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 of
Because of the many taboos associated with the raising of 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 life".
This is the reverse side of the charm.
The two Chinese characters are again written in a very
stylized seal script.
The characters are read right to left as fu gui (富贵) meaning
"wealth and rank".
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
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 rank".
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
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, bottom left.
The inscription reads tian
chang di jiu (天长地久) which means "as eternal and
unchanging as the universe".
A "lock" charm with this same inscription may be seen at Chinese Lock Charms.
The reverse side of the charm has a reddish tinge. The color red is
considered very lucky to the Chinese.
The Chinese characters in this inscription are read in the same
order as above.
The inscription is chang ming
bai sui (长命百岁) which translates as "long life of 100
A "pendant" charm with this same "longevity" inscription may be
seen at Chinese
This charm is 47.5 mm in length and 46 mm in width.
The weight is 14.6 grams.
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