Celebrating the pink moon Monday (also known as the peach moon). Photo Zhen Huang
Peach trees bloom throughout Los Alamos as shown here Saturday. Photo by Zhen Huang
By ZHEN HUANG
Monday night we celebrated the biggest and brightest full moon of the year, the fourth full moon. In Western culture it is called Pink Moon. In Chinese culture, it is called Peach Moon.
The peach tree is one of the most planted easy growing trees in our backyard here in Los Alamos. Peach trees greet us with beautiful pink blooms in early spring and reward us with sweet juicy fruits throughout autumn.
You may know that peach trees are native to China where Chinese started cultivating peaches some 3000 years ago.
You may know that the name “Peach” evolved from “Persia Apple” as peach trees reached Europe from China via Persia. At the time the Europeans believed that peaches were native to Persia.
You may know that it was the Spanish explorers who brought the peach to South America, then back to Europe, and then eventually to North America by an English horticulturist George Minifie in the early 17th century.
You may know that it was the early American Indian tribes who actually spread the peach tree across North America by taking seeds with them and planting seeds in their land as they migrated around.
When we celebrate the Pink Moon, the Peach Moon, tonight, we celebrate the multicultural blend of the history of peach.
In China, efforts in domestication of peaches were documented as early as in 500 B.C. in an encyclopedia that noted the requirements of good soils and high levels of fertilization for peach tree growth. Selection of superior peach cultivars and high density plantings were recorded as early as 100 B.C.
By the middle of the 600 A.D., Chinese farmers had obtained good knowledge of the need for seed stratification to ensure good germination, the burning of straw for frost protection, and the use of burning torches in the orchard during the Chinese New Year to reduce insect damage. In an article written in 1081 A.D., more than 30 peach cultivars were described.
“Tao zi ”, is Pinyin for the Chinese characters 桃子, meaning “peach fruit”. The character 桃 (peach) is a combination of character 木 (wood) and character 兆 (trillion), literally meaning “trillion years old wood” . In the 1980s, Chinese researchers found a peach tree in Tibet that was estimated to be about 1000 years old. In Chinese culture, peach fruit symbolizes good health and longevity.
During the Renaissance, many European artists symbolically painted peaches to represent the heart with an attached leaf as a symbol for the tongue. This motif implied that speaking truth from our heart of love and mind of peace is good for our health.
One of the most beloved stories in Chinese history is “Xiyouji” (“Journey to the West”). In the story, one character, Monkey King, visits the Peach Garden of the Heavenly Queen Mother and eats the peaches of immortality. In Chinese culture, Monkey King is a feature of justice who fights his life-long everlasting battles against evils.
According to English etymology, peach, as a verb, its earlier form “pechen”, means “to accuse, indict, bring to trial”. In western cultures, peach, the word, is also related to fighting for justice.
Peach also is special for Los Alamos. In downtown Los Alamos we have four connected streets named after peach, Peach Street, South Peach Street, North Peach Street, and Nectar Street (nectarine is smooth-skinned peach). These streets were as old as the Manhattan Project Time. It was the earlier residents of the atomic town during World War II who held dearly the hope for world peace that named these streets after “peach” that symbolizes peace.
Over the years, the peach tree has witnessed how different cultures shared the same values of our spiritual endeavors. When enjoying the Peach Moon last Monday night and peach blooms this spring, let’s celebrate the good things that multicultural blending has brought to the world, and make our efforts for a healthy and peaceful world.