This peach was lucky
People living in the Market Street Chinatown probably saw great meaning in this peach ornament. In Chinese tradition, the peach is a symbol of long life and good luck. Archaeologists found many objects decorated with peaches at the Market Street Chinatown, but this peach ornament is unique — it is the only one of its kind that has been found in North America.
A person in the peach?
Look closely and you can see a person sitting in the peach, with tiny bits of color that tell us it was probably painted.
Nobody knows exactly who this person is. An Asian folktale tells a story of an old, childless couple who found a little boy named Momotoro inside of a peach. Could Momotoro be the person shown in the ceramic peach ornament? Lee Liu Chin, a researcher with the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, believes that the person could be one of the “Eight Immortals.” In Chinese mythology, the Eight Immortals would gather every 3,000 years to eat from a special peach tree in the Kun Lun mountains.
A peach for protection
Notice the tiny hole in the stem of the peach. A string probably went through this hole, and someone may have hung it in their home on Chinese New Year, wishing for prosperity and longevity during the coming year.
Ornaments from a restaurant or a tenement?
Archaeologists found this ceramic peach alongside two other decorations: a piece of alabaster stone decorated with Chinese calligraphy, as well as a jade ornament. They were found near a group of buildings that included stores, restaurants, and tenement (apartment) housing. Together, perhaps they helped create an inviting, comforting, and festive atmosphere in a restaurant, or perhaps tenement residents used these objects to decorate their small rooms.
Yvonne Ching: I see a little boy in the peach (video)
Yvonne Ching: Peaches for my father’s birthday (video)
“There Was a Chinatown Here” by Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project (Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, Stanford University, and History San Jose) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.