Saturday, June 4, 2011

Longevity and Luck Greeting Card

Southern Mountain, Eastern Sea
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See below for the sources of the text and symbolism used in this piece.

Eastern Sea, Southern Mountain

The expression "longevity compared to the Southern Mountain, luck as (vast as) the Eastern Sea" was recorded in a short story from the Ming Dynasty compilation "Tales from Qingping Mountain Hall".1

The idiom "longevity compared to the Southern Mountain" can be traced back further to "The Book of Odes", a compilation of poems and songs dated between the 11th - 7th century BCE.2

What's the deal with peaches?

Peach/longevity symbolism dates back to antiquity. An early mention comes from "The Book of the Supernatural and Strange", a compilation attributed to Han Dynasty author Dongfang Shuo (d 93 BCE)3:
In the East there is a peach tree with a height of 50 zhang (165 m) , whose fruit is 3 chi and 3 chun (1.1 m) in diameter. Eaten with the pit, it is delicious, and benefits the longevity of humans.4

The tradition of giving peaches to parents as birthday gifts was said to be started by Sun Bin (aka Sun Zi or Sun Tse), author of The Art of War. When Sun was a 30 year old student under Guigu Zi, he took leave of his teacher to pay a birthday visit to his 80 year old mother. Master Guigu gave Sun a peach to bring home to his mother. As Sun's mother was eating the peach, she started to look younger, to the joyful surprise of her family. From hence came the tradition of gifting peaches to parents, or so says the Baidu entry on Longevity Peaches5 :-)

  1. Fu Ru Dong Hai on Baidu Encyclopedia
  2. Shou Ru Nan Shan on Baidu Encyclopedia,
    Book of Songs (Chinese) on Wikipedia
  3. Shen Yi Jing on Baidu Encyclopedia,
    Dongfang Shuo on Baidu Encyclopedia
  4. Shen Yi Jing on Baidu Encyclopedia
  5. Longevity peaches on Baidu Encyclopedia

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No warranties made as to accuracy of translation.

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