Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Birthday, Our Present: Love Of The Half-Eaten Peach

Learning this true story from history made me so happy...

More than two thousand five hundred years ago in what today is China, the ruler of the state of Wei, Duke Ling, was walking through an orchard with the man he loved, Mi Zi Xia. Mi Zi Xia picked a ripe peach from a tree and started to eat it. It was so delicious that, after a few bites, Mi Zi Xia gave the rest of the peach to the duke, so he could share it.

The duke was moved by this and said, “How sincere is your love for me! You forget your own appetite and think only of giving me good things to eat!”

Later, as the philosopher Han Fei Tzu tells us in his book of essays written sometime between 260 B.C.E. and 230 B.C.E, the duke fell out of love with Mi Zi Xia and accused him of committing a crime. “After all,” said the ruler, listing reasons to not trust his former love, “another time he gave me a half-eaten peach to eat!”

Duke Ling’s fickle nature aside, the story of sharing the peach, and the symbolism of the love behind that sharing, became famous. So famous that in Chinese the expression "love of the half-eaten peach" [yutao zhipi, 餘桃之癖] was used for over one thousand years as we use the word Gay in English, to describe two men in love.

Isn't that amazing?

Where did I find this, and where can you find out more?

The Chinese of Han Fei Tzu’s Chapter XII: Difficulties in the Way of Persuation [sic], are from Liao, W.K. trans. The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu. 2 vols. London: Arthur Probsthain, 1959. Accessed online at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities here. Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia.

The 1964 English translation is from pg. 78-79 of “Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings: Trans. by Burton Watson,” Columbia University Press.

The Chinese characters and transliteration for Love Of The Half-Eaten Peach are from page 49 of “Male Homosexualities and World Religions” by Pierre Hurteau, Nov. 2013, Palgrave Macmillan.

You can find out more about the expression “love of the half-eaten peach” and its historical use in China in Bret Hinsch’s “Passions of the Cut Sleeve,” 1990, University of California Press, pgs. 20-22, 35, 53, 56, 71, 73-75, 83-85, 89, 93, 95, 147, 161 and 181-182.

Thanks for letting me share, and here's to amazing adventures (and lots of love) ahead for us all!


Kathleen said...

What a neat story! I hadn't heard of that before. Thanks for sharing this. and Happy Birthday!

emma d dryden said...

What a wonderful story within a story! Cheers, Lee!