10,000 Blessings of a Peach

 “’Ten thousand’ is poetic Chinese for ‘infinite,’ as in ‘May the Emperor reign 10,000 years’ or, as it now says over the gate of Heavenly Peace (Tiananmen) in Tiananmen Square, ‘May the People’s Republic of China last 10,000 years.’ This unit of time is symbolized by a peach, as the Chinese delight in making associations between the sounds of tonal connections of (otherwise unconnected) words. So when you look at Chinese imagery, be it an ancient watercolor or a strident propaganda poster, keep an eye out for a propitious scattering of peaches, birds, bats, and vases. A bird, especially a crane, has tonal connections with ‘harmony,’ a bat with ‘prosperity,’ a vase with ‘peace,’ and, as we have already heard, a peach can say ‘10,000 years.'”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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