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Longevity peaches 寿桃

longevity peachesThe longevity peach is not a fruit but a popular Chinese pastry that is the representation of a celestial peach 仙桃.

This celestial peach was mentioned in several Chinese legends and is said to grow in the garden of the Queen Mother of the West, 西王母. The celestial peaches ripen once every few thousand years and humans who consume the celestial peach achieve immortality.

The ripening of the celestial peach is celebrated with a Celestial Peach banquet, 蟠桃宴, during which all invited immortals feast on it.

In the Chinese legend, Journey to the West, 西游记, it was recorded that during one of these Celestial Peach banquets, the Monkey God, 孙悟空, was very unhappy that he was not invited. Feeling insulted, he retaliated by intruding the Queen Mother of the West’s garden, consumed all the celestial peaches and uprooted her tree.

Shou Xing, 寿星, one of the three stellar gods; Fu Lu Shou, 福禄寿, is always shown carrying a celestial peach in his palm.

With such amazing association with gods, goddess and immortals and with the ability to bestow immortality, it is no wonder humans crave to taste one. This aspiration for longevity gave rise to the longevity peach shaped like it celestial counterpart.

The longevity peach is similiar to bao, 包, and mantou, 馒头, except that it is shaped and colored like a peach. It comes in various sizes and can be a single peach or a cluster of peaches. Some have filings such as the lotus paste or red bean paste.

They can be found in specialty Chinese pastry shops, food stalls and supermarkets. Longevity peaches from shops maybe arranged into an impressive display of longevity peaches while those in supermarket are micro wave friendly versions.

Longevity peaches are presented during birthdays of elderly to wish them a long life and plays a similar role to a birthday cake. During birthday banquets, 寿宴, all guest will receive a longevity peach as part of the dinner.

The longevity peaches are also used for ritual purposes during the birthdays of gods, goddess or patron saints. See as an example Thian Hock Keng celebrates Mazu birthday.

Longevity peaches are wonderful examples of creativity of using simple ingredients to create food items that symbolize collective aspirations and reflects traditional values that venerates and respects the elderly.

 

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Longevity peaches in Bangkok Chinatown
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Longevity peaches served during a banquet
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longevity peaches

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