Walks in the Apricot Forest: Pomegranate

Tian Yi

PureInsight | February 24, 2003

Illustration: Ai Lan

[In Chinese, "Apricot Forest" is another term for the medical community. For more details see: http://www.pureinsight.org/pi/articles/2003/1/23/1368.html]

"Tiny red blossoms on the tip of tree branches
Form a charming contrast with the water lily leaves in June.
They are the coral blossoms among the green leaves,
Which I mistake as red silver among green jade."

By the Emperor Kang Xi in the Qing Dynasty

[PureInsight.org] Pomegranate is called shi liu in Chinese and was originally called an shi liu. According to historical records, around 200 BC pomegranates were available only in the two regions of An and Shi in Xi Yu. (Xi Yu is the general name of regions west of the ancient city of Dunhuang, which is in today's Chinese Province of Gansu, or today's Bukhara and Tashekent in Uzebekistan.) It was not until the Han Dynasty when Zhang Qian embarked on a diplomatic mission to the region where pomegranate trees were brought to China's interior. There is a beautiful story behind it.

As soon as Zhang Qian settled down in the region of An Shi, he noticed a tree in front of his house with outrageous blossoms in flaming red. Zhang Qian was very fond of this tree, and was often seen standing next to it admiring its beauty. Later, he learned that this was a pomegranate tree. During a drought, the pomegranate leaves and blossoms started to wither day by day. Zhang Qian kept on watering the tree and nursed it back to health.

When Zhang Qian completed his mission and prepared to return to China, the ruler of An Shi offered him gold as a present. Zhang Qian declined and, instead, asked for the pomegranate tree in front of his house. The ruler granted his request graciously. Unfortunately, Zhang Qian was ambushed by the Huns on his way home, and lost the tree during the battle. When Zhang Qian and his soldiers arrived at Changan (or today's Xian) the Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty and his court officials came out of the city wall to welcome him. At that moment, a beautiful young lady in a red skirt and green shirt ran toward Zhang Qian, short of breath and with tears in her eyes.

The young woman's behavior caught the Emperor Wu and all the court officials in attendance by surprise. When Zhang Qian remembered her face, he was equally shocked. This was the very lady who visited him the night before he left the region of An Shi. That night, someone knocked on Zhang Qian's door. Zhang Qian opened the door only to find this lady saluting him and asking to go to China with him. Zhang Qian did not ask her for the reason. He figured that this lady must be a palace maid of the Emperor of An Shi and that she wanted to escape to China for some unspeakable reason. Zhang Qian, as an ambassador on a diplomatic mission, could ill afford creating such troubles as kidnapping the emperor's palace maid, so he gently asked her to leave. Zhang Qian had not expected the lady to follow him to China on her own. Zhang Qian asked her, "Young lady, why did you not stay in An Shi and follow us all the way here?" The young lady answered in tears, "I do not seek wealth or fame. I simply wish to repay you for the favor of watering me. I was not able to be with you for the entire trip because of the ambush by the Huns." Then she turned into a pomegranate tree with fiery red blossoms and green leaves. Zhang Qian suddenly realized what had happened and described for Emperor Wu the pomegranate tree in front of his house that he had watered in An Shi. The Emperor Wu was very pleased with the story, and asked his gardeners to transfer the tree to the palace garden. Since then, pomegranate trees have been available in China.

Pan Yue wrote a poem that praised pomegranates. It says, "A pomegranate tree is the most fantastic tree in the world. Pomegranates are the most famous fruit in the nine continents of China. It is succulent and fragrant."


Left: A Pomegranate Blossom
Right: A Pomegranate

A pomegranate tree possesses many treasures. Pomegranate flowers, leaves, fruits, fruit peels, and roots are herbal medicines. According to traditional Chinese pharmaceutical records, "taking ground dried pomegranate flowers, mixed with Tie Dan (a Chinese herb), for one year will restore silver hair back to jet black." This historical record tells the healing function of pomegranate flowers. Yet pomegranate flowers are more frequently used to stop bleeding. As for pomegranate leaves, people often use the mashed leaves to nurse bumps and bruises. Red pomegranates are as red as agate and white ones are as pale as crystal. The fruit tastes freshly sweet and very delicious. Pomegranate root peels can be used as insecticide. Pomegranate fruit peels tastes sour and dry, but are good medicine for diarrhea. When used correctly, pomegranates are very effective herbal medicines that do not require a prescription from a doctor.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2003/1/25/20146.html

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