Peach and Pear Blossoms in Spring
Author/Photographer Yu Maozhi
In ancient Chinese language, the characters meaning “spring” and “stupidity” are homonyms. They carry the meaning that the spring is coming and everything comes back to life. With weather warmer and rain more abundant, grass sprout, and birds chirp lively, and fragrant flowers display a profusion of colors.
Jiuxiang Town: Spring of Pear Flowers on Southern Silk Road
In March, the spring breeze sweeps along the Dadu River valley. Twenty thousand acres of pear flowers are in full blossom in Jiuxiang town at the foot of Niba Mountain.
The line “As though a gust of spring wind swept past overnight, bringing thousands upon thousands of pear trees into blossoms” in Song of White Snow on Secretary Wu’s Return to Capital written by Cen Shen originally depicted snow, but now it is nothing better than describe the pear flowers of Jiuxiang Town in March.
Located in Dadu River valley, Jiuxiang is 25 kilometers from the Hanyuan County in the south. As the crossroad of the Southern Silk Road and the Ancient Tea-Horse Road, Jiuxiang has always been the corridor of national culture and the center of commercial port of Ya’an, Gansu and Liangshan City. Zedu in the Ancient Shu Dynasty and the Shenli and Maoniu County in the Han Dynasty are under the governance of Jiuxiang. Besides, when in the Hundred Days Reform, it gained the name of Jiuxiang (“Jiu” in Chinese means “Nine” in English) due to the governance of nine townships where people loved and helped each other. Generally speaking, Jiuxiang has a history of over 2100 years.
However, it was the beautiful pear flowers that impressed me a lot when I passed by Jiuxiang in last spring. On the mountainside, you could see a boundless area of pear flowers, looking like a heavy snow. The “snow” spread the hillocks and then slipped into the valley. It connected with the unmelted snow on the top of the distant mountain, making it hard to distinguish between flowers and snow.
Being closer, under the pear trees were pieces of young garlic shoot land on the slope of the hill. The sun shone brightly with few clouds, and the flowers were colorful. The breeze brought light fragrance of flowers and earth, leaving you happy and carefree. Besides, the fallen pear petals perished in the garlic bolt, altogether displaying a splendid spring of Jiuxiang.
Villagers were busy pollinating the pear trees and harvesting the young garlic shoot in the green fields. When I asked who planted these pear trees, the local people told me a story.
In the early period of Tang Dynasty, monk Xuanzang was appointed by the emperor Taizong of Tang to go on a pilgrimage to the west. When passing by the Southern Silk Road in Hanyuan County without money at nightfall, he had to find a lodging in a farmer’s house. Xuanzang sent his stick to the farmer in return for their hospitality. The careless housewife mistook it for an ordinary branch, so she put it in the front yard. Unexpectedly, in the next spring, the monk stick sprout and grew into a pear tree. After three years, they bore sweet fruits, so neighbors came to introduce the pear seeds. After nearly a thousand years’ breeding, the pear trees are up to today’s scale.
Certainly, it is a fairy tale, but it also shows that the pear trees have a long breeding history.
Jiuxiang is nourished by the humid air of Dadu River and bright sunshine under Niba Mountain. Thanks to its special geographic position and climatic condition, Jiuxiang is rich in products, and its commercial trade booms. Besides pears, Jiuxiang, entitled “the Land of Fruits”, is also abundant in another 50 kinds of fruits, such as cherries, loquats, peaches, plums, oranges, grapes, and so on. When Zhuge Liang (a statesman and strategist of the Kingdom Shu) passed by to fight in the south, he acclaimed, “No harvest in the world, half is here; great disorder in the world, peace is here”.
There lives households in the pear garden. When people come to visit, the neat farm courtyards will be decorated with lanterns and streamers, and the girls here will give a welcoming smile. The Chinese tea, chess and farmhouse delicacies, accompanied by the occasionally falling pear petals forms a picture of heaven. When the pear trees are laden with fruits, you can pick them to brew wine. How agreeable!
Longquanyi District: Kuafu’s peach flowers bloom in the romantic The Book of Songs
In spring, with the bright sun shining, peach flowers all over the mountains and fields give full blossom. Taking a distant view, you can see a vast area of peach flowers displaying a profusion of colors. What a spectacle it is!
According to The Classic of Mountains and Seas, “In a wilderness, there was a mountain called Chengdu Zaitian where there lived a giant tribe whose leader was called Kuafu. To survive such a primitive world, Kuafu led the tribal people to fight with the disasters and beasts every day.
In one drought, the hot sun scorched the crop, dried up the rivers so that people could hardly make their living. Therefore, Kuafu made great determination to catch the sun. As the sun went around quickly, Kuafu chased it like strong wind. After nine days, he was thirsty to death halfway, but the cane that he had dropped became an exuberant peach forest.
Of course, the peach forest in Longqanyi is not Kuafu’s cane. However, a peach pit from a tomb of Qin in Longquanyi turned out that this place had a long history of peach planting. In fact, the peach forest here today is associated with a person called Jin Xitian.
Jin Xitian is from the town of Shanquan in Longquanyi. Studying in the Department of Foreign Languages in Faculty of Arts of West China University, Jin Xitian went to study the conditions of ethnic minorities in Dajianlu (preset Kangding) and Jianchang (present Xichang) in 1930. Attracted by the farm orchards along the way, he brought home 300 juicy peaches to set up an orchard.
When the flowers bloomed, Jin Xitian invited his friends to enjoy flowers, drink wine and compose poetryn the orchard. Unexpectedly, today two of his poetry have become the promotion of peach flowers in Longquanyi—“In the peach garden of Longquan Mountain, the peach flowers give full blossom; though only two tables of people came to enjoy the flowers this year, the number will be increased by ten thousand times after half a century”, “In the clouds exist households, and in the mountains appear peach flowers; enjoying flowers and drinking wine are today’s matters, but peach flowers will be all over the mountains someday.
With the development of over half a century, Longyuanyi has become one of China’s ten juicy peach suppliers. With 17 million peach trees on the Longquan Mountain, the peach flowers bloom well in spring. Peach flowers, altogether with pear flowers, plum flowers and other seasonal flowers, decorate the whole Longquan Mountain with vigor, vitality and colors, attracting numerous tourists.
Certainly, the peach flowers of the town of Shanquan are the most beautiful and brilliant in Longquanyi. Due to the geographic position, the peach flowers here bloom in a delayed time of seven to ten days. But the verse “all flowers in the human world will fade in April, but peach flowers in the mountain temple just begin to bloom” gives us a feeling of brilliance and brightness after the flower blossom.
The peach flowers redden like morning glow and pinken like rouge. Just as the verse goes, “ Peach flowers bloom well, just like fire melting the spring”. A large number of tourists come to appreciate peach flowers with sounds of camera shutter and laughter.
A poem written by Cui Hu flashed my mind—“ This very day last year, ou, at this very place, a pretty face outshone the flowers of peach trees; I do not know today where shines the pretty face, only the pretty flowers still smile in vernal breeze”. But in The Book of Songs, there are verses meaning “The peach trees flourish with blossoms splendid and glorious. The maiden is getting married, and she will make the family harmonious”.
Thus, after a spring outing in Longquanyi, the poet Xi Yongjun wrote the famous Sonnet of Peach Blossom—the road to The Book of Songs is also the road to the peach blossoms and to Longquan; the peach flowers of Longquan are also the flowers of The Book of Songs ... When the fairy tale perishes, Jin Xitian’s peach forest is also Kua Fu’s.
Transportation: Chengdu Shiyang Station－Jiuxiang, ticket price of 71 yuan
Self-driving: Start off from Chengdu, then drive 211.5 kilometers on the Beijing-Kunming expressway/G5, and depart from Jiuxiang/Shuangxi/G108. The whole journey is 226 kilometers, which takes two hours and forty minutes’ driving.
Specialties: Han Yuan Chinese red peppers, ugly oranges, strawberries, cherries and pears, Qingxi yellow beef, squeezed buckwheat noodles, etc.