Urumqi, 6 June (ZXS) -- Why is the "peach culture" prevalent in Turpan, Xinjiang?

——Interview with Wang Long, Deputy Director of the Institute of Archaeology, Turpan Research Institute

Written by Xiaodong Ma

Located at the crossroads of the Silk Road, Turpan, Xinjiang, has received material and cultural exchanges from the East and the West, and its own social outlook and residents' living customs have been affected to varying degrees, and the cultivation and utilization of peach trees is a good example.

The peach is one of the important fruits in China, and it is also reflected in documents unearthed in the Turpan Basin in Xinjiang. How do Turpan documents record Turpan's "peach culture"? How did the latter affect the Turpan region? How does the relationship between "peach and grape" reflect the two-way spread of Chinese and Western culture? Focusing on the Turpan peach culture, the China News Agency's "East-West Question" recently interviewed Wang Long, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of the Turpan Research Institute.

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: Peach trees have a long history of cultivation in China, which are described in Xinjiang Turpan documents. Are there any examples of peach remains unearthed in Xinjiang, China? How is it recorded in the Turpan documents?

Wang Long: During the Tangxi Prefecture period, peaches were planted and used in the Turpan Basin of Xinjiang. Carbon 14 dating of peach kernels unearthed in Murtuksa Yishu Fort is dated to the present (1345±25) year, which is the Tangxi Prefecture period. The peach remains found by archaeology have more powerful evidence of the history of the peach culture in the Turpan region, such as the ancient tombs of Astana in Turpan, where many melon and fruit relics were unearthed, mainly grapes, walnuts, pears, peaches, apricots, melons, dates, etc. In the archaeological excavations of the Tuyugou Cave Temple site and the Murtuksa Yishu Fort, many peach pits, apricot pits, jujube pits, etc. have also been seen.

There are many records of Turpan's production of "peaches" in historical documents. From the Wei Jin Dynasty to the Sui and Tang Dynasties, most of the records of Turpan products are "the land is more stony moraine, the climate is warm, the grain and wheat are ripe, the silkworm is suitable, and there are more than five fruits". Regarding the "five fruits", the literature mostly explains that the five most common fruits in the Central Plains of China, namely peaches, apricots, plums, jujubes and chestnuts.

A number of Turpan excavated documents record the cultural information of "peach". Many paper documents have been unearthed in the ancient tombs of Astana in Turpan, recording the history of the Turpan Basin from the Wei and Jin dynasties to the Tang Dynasty, including records of "peach". Some of the texts have the word "peach" written in it, while others write "peach peach", "peach peach", "peach peach" or "peach peach". For example, "Gaochang Xia Temple Vineyard Coupon" mentions "Temple Floating Peach One Garden"; In the second part of "Tang Zhenguan's Fourteenth Year Li Shizhu and Other Households in Gaochang County, Xizhou", it is recorded that "Tao two mu Lu Shibu".

Turpan peach blossoms bloom drunk tourists. Photo by Liu Jian

China News Agency: Regarding the "peach" mentioned in the Turpan document, there is often a dispute between "peach and grape" in academic circles.

Wang Long: There are indeed differences in the interpretation of the records in the Turpan documents. Some scholars believe that the records of peaches in the text all point to grapes; Other scholars believe that the words "peach", "peach" and "floating peach" in the document refer to "grapes", and the separately occurring "peach" or "pottery" refers to "peach tree" or "peach".

As for the specific interpretation, I think it is necessary to combine the relationship between the excavated literature, and we cannot simply discuss the direction of individual words and words, let alone generalize. However, judging from the research results of Turpan documents by successive generations of scholars, it should be a fact that Turpan had peach trees cultivated in Tangxi Prefecture, and the special cultural connotation given to "peach" by the Central Plains has been generally accepted locally.

China News Agency reporter: "Living without peach" is a unique culture in the Central Plains of China, which has been endowed with different cultural connotations by the ancestors. How did the "peach culture" affect the Turpan region of Xinjiang?

Wang Long: "Living without a peach" expresses people's yearning and pursuit of auspiciousness, peace and longevity. The ancients believed that peach wood could ward off evil, so they would make some peach wood products to avoid evil. Common ones are peach talismans, peach swords, peach people, peach stems, etc., with different names, and slightly different uses and usages. In the Han Dynasty, there was a custom of splitting peach wood and making "peach talismans" to ward off ghosts; Peach stems are made of peach branches, and some write words of prayer for disasters, and insert them in front of the door on the first day of the first lunar month every year to ward off evil spirits. In the early days, there were also cases where the peach man and the burial person were buried in the tomb as funerary objects. The peach figure is made of peach wood, cut into a human shape and drawn with ink to draw eyebrows, nose, mouth, clothes, etc., and is used in the form of a portal to ward off evil spirits, and also in the form of a peach figurine to be buried in the tomb.

The famous Astana ancient tomb in Turpan once unearthed a peach wooden plaque, inserted at the top of a small tomb, with a total length of 21 cm and a thickness of 1.1 cm. The upper part of the front of the wooden tablet is drawn with ink lines to make it similar to a human figure, and the lower part has a well-preserved two-line ink book text; Three lines of text can be seen in the lower part of the back, which reads: "One peach man, can guard Zhang Longle's tomb." Dongqian (阡), [South] Mo, North Mo. Self-encompassing with the ancestors and the next generation (Mao). Do not be as handsome as a decree. According to the contents of the ink book, it is learned that the owner of the tomb is named Zhang Longle, and the sacred mission of the peach people is to guard the tomb owner's residence in another world (guarding the tomb), and this cemetery was originally selected by the tomb owner and his ancestors before his death, hoping to make the descendants of the family prosper.

A peach wooden tablet unearthed from the ancient tomb of Astana in Turpan. Photo courtesy of interviewee

The peach wooden plaque found in the ancient tombs of Astana is a specific example of the Central Plains peach culture to the Turpan region, and it can be seen from a small peach pit that the influence of the Central Plains culture on the Western Regions can be described as long-term, extensive, deep and specific.

China News Agency: Turpan, located at the crossroads of the Silk Road, has accepted material and cultural exchanges from the East and the West, and its own social outlook and residents' living customs have also been affected to varying degrees. How does the relationship between "peach and grape" in Turpan documents reflect the two-way spread of Chinese and Western cultures?

Wang Long: As an ancient cash crop, the history of grape use can be traced back to Mesopotamia about 8000,138 years ago. It is generally believed that the Eurasian grapes were brought back to Chang'an by Zhang Qian along the Silk Road in 119-2500 BC. In the Yanghai Ancient Tomb in Turpan, archaeologists have unearthed a well-preserved vine, and their discovery has advanced the history of grape cultivation in Turpan to about <>,<> years ago. At that time, the Yanghai people already knew and mastered viticulture and propagation techniques. It shows that before Zhang Qian's mission to the Western Regions, viticulture had been introduced to China. It is also a powerful example of East-West cultural exchanges along the Silk Roads.

Grapevines unearthed from the ancient tomb of Yanghai in Turpan. Photo courtesy of interviewee

Remains of dried grapes unearthed from the Astana tomb in Turpan (Tangxi period). Photo courtesy of interviewee

In addition, a tomb mural of "Manor Life Map" was also found in the ancient tomb group of Astana in Turpan, which clearly shows the grape cultivation and winemaking in Turpan during the Jin and Tang Dynasties. This shows that grape cultivation and winemaking have become part of farm life in the Turpan region at that time, and it also further verifies the historical records of ancient Gaochang wine.

Exhibits at the Turpan Museum in Xinjiang, China, manor life paintings. Photo by Ma Huiping

The cultivation of peaches also has a long history, and based on physical evidence and historical documents, domestic and foreign scholars generally believe that it originated in China and spread to Eurasia via the Silk Road. As early as the pre-Qin era, the Chinese ancestors observed and recorded the growth law and phenology of peach trees. The Book of Rites contains "(Mid-Spring Moon) Beginning of Rain, Peach Beginning Hua"; There is also a good sentence in the Book of Poetry: "Vote for me with a peach, and repay me with a lee". From the perspective of historical documents, excavated documents and unearthed peach verifies and peach wood products, in the Jin and Tang Dynasties or even earlier, the ancestors of the Turpan Basin introduced and cultivated peach trees through the convenience of the Silk Road, and at the same time absorbed the extended meaning of "peach" given by the traditional culture of the Central Plains.

China News Agency: The history of peach cultivation in the Turpan area and the long-term popularity and spread of the "peach culture" in the Central Plains in the Turpan region explain the "double-petaled flower" model of Chinese civilization?

Wang Long: The historical fact of the existence of peach tree cultivation in Turpan and the long-term popularity and spread of "peach culture" in Turpan in the Central Plains reflect that the local residents of Turpan have excellent cultural qualities that are inclusive, integrated and brought together from all sides since ancient times, and more directly reflect the reality that the culture of the Central Plains has been rooted in, nurtured and expanded in the Western Regions for a long time.

Since its origin, Chinese civilization has been diverse and integrated, with deep soil and rich root systems. Many prehistoric cultures converged and blended with each other, giving birth to a rich and colorful Chinese civilization. Historically, the continuous exchanges, exchanges and blending between the ethnic groups of the Central Plains and the Western Regions have greatly enriched the core connotation of Chinese civilization.

The evolution process of Chinese civilization is actually the process of integration of multiple civilizations, which we call the "double-petaled flower" model. Huaxia is the core and flower heart; The core radiates and spreads to the periphery, and the periphery gathers to the core. The core and the edge are intertwined and intertwined, blending with each other, and gradually forming a pluralistic and integrated Chinese national community that is connected by mountains and rivers.

Respondent Profile:

Wang Long is currently the deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of the Turpan Research Institute. He has participated in or presided over many projects such as the archaeology of Tuyugou Cave Temple, the archaeological investigation and excavation of Turpan Great Wall resources, the archaeological excavation of Turpan Boxiha Grottoes, the archaeological excavation of Luntai Zhuorkut Ancient City, the archaeological excavation of Turpan Yemush Cemetery, the archaeological excavation of Turpan Jia Yi Cemetery, and the archaeological excavation of Turpan West Bean Estorian Sites. He participated in the National Natural Science Foundation of China project "Research on the Composition System and Production Process of Excavated Beads along the Xinjiang Silk Road", the National Social Science Foundation Key Project "Collation and Research of Xinjiang Jia Yi Cemetery Archaeological Excavation Report" and the National Social Science Foundation Key Project "Turpan Shengjindian Cemetery Archaeological Excavation Data Collation and Research". Published the academic monograph "Gaochang Grottoes Mural Line Drawings Tuyugou Grottoes". He has written more than 20 archaeological excavation briefs, reports and related academic papers.