Friday, June 10, 2016


Peach pits have been carved for several centuries: Tim Hallman of the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, California contends that the craft originated in China where the Peach is a symbol of longevity(1);  Wang Xu-De, in a summary about the history of peach pit carving in China, notes "Peach stone carving has a long history in China and is first recorded in the middle of the Song dynasty [960 -1279]"(2);  it also is recorded that AHandiwork of pit carving was all the rage for a time in the Ming [1368-1644] and Qing [1644 -1911] Dynasties.@(3);  [and]  folklore exhibits of the Sichuan University Museum in south-central China include Asome fantastically small carvings including a miniature boat and crew carved from a peach pit.@(4)
More recently: Michigan State University lists "Peach Pit Carving" on its "... topical file subjects" relating to the Michigan Traditional Arts Program.   Articles have been published about peach pit carving in both China and America in, for example, the periodical Chip Chats.  Carvings have been displayed at art and craft festivals.  And, a few web sites describe and/or illustrate relatively recently carved peach pits.

So far as the place peach pit carving has in the world of arts and crafts, the following rather apt statement seems to "say it all" i.e., for all, save a few professional, peach pit carvers whom I know or have read about:  "This unusual art form seems not to be attached to any specific region, ethnic group, or occupation.  One simply occasionally finds folks who like to sit down and carve tiny figures and baskets out of peach pits...@(5).

Peach pits, sometimes referred to as peach stones or even peach seeds, comprise the cores of the widely eaten fruit called peach. 
In America, several peach varieties, most of which are hybrids, have been given names such as Redhaven and Georgia Belle.  All, however, fall into two major groups, usually referred to in the vernacular as Afree stone@ and Acling.@  I have been unable to find out whether the six rather different varieties recorded as supplying the recognizably different peach pits used for carving in China(6) also fit into these two overall categories.     In any case, it has been my experience that the pits in today=s hybrid peaches i.e., the ones readily availble in markets in the United States and Canada are not nearly so amenable to carving as the pits from the peaches availble during the 1930s and 40s were.  Also, it seems to me that for the most part pits from cling peaches are more workable than those from free stone peaches.

Peach pits consist of two main parts: an outside hard wood-like material (putamen) and an enclosed nut-like, cyanide-containing seed (kernel).  The wood-like material, which is carved, typically has many irregularly shaped open spaces and a hardness similar to that of hard maple, except for a softer zone where it was attached to the stem.  Unlike most wood, however, the typical peach pit has virtually no grain except along one of its edges (see Figure1B). The seed is removed from most carvings, and in any case does not become part of the finished products.  With a few exceptions, pits I have seen have greatest dimensions that range from 2 cm to 4.5 cm  i.e., from ~ 3/4 to ~1 3/4 inches.  Their colors range from light tan to medium brown with some having reddish or yellowish orange hues For more information:  CLICK HERE