Smiling and Holding Flat Peaches
In ancient Chinese stories, a flat peach was a symbolic image, which, in later periods, was associated with Daoism, standing for human longevity. In Daoist stories, flat peaches were hardly attainable because they used to take three thousand years to become ripe. For this reason, the Queen Mother of the West ( 西王母 Xiwangmu ) loved to treat her guests with peaches in banquets. The joy was conveyed to the human world by works of literati. After his arrest, Wen Tianxang, the famous patriot, composed a poem, in which he used the images 'a storm from the north' to stand for foreign threats, and 'smiling and holding flat peaches' for his loyalty to his motherland as well as his memories about his happy life in the past. From this poem, we see a spirit of optimism and fearlessness in the poet's inner world although, in reality, he was a captive, and not far away from his death. Wei Tianxiang's optimism overwhelmed the whole poem. This story mirrored the spirit of going beyond physical existence, which was in line with the original meaning of the Daoist story, a spiritual journey to the immortals' world, a perfect world. In fact, Wei Tianxiang was a Daoist believer. His belief in Daoism was seen in his earlier poems and confirmed by the fact that, in the last moment of his life, he wished he had been a Daoist. The Biography of Wen Tianxiang in the History of the Song dynasty mentioned it, saying that the reason Wen Tianxiang hoped to be a Daoist was that he stuck to his moral principles and, on the other hand, he cherished a deep respect for Daoism. At last, his wish of being a Daoist wasn't realized because he refused to surrender. He sacrificed his life for his country and his personal belief. But he gained himself the chance to hold the flat peaches in the immortals' world.