Saturday in the Museum with Baishi

Image: Qi Baishi, Three Longevities (Three Peaches).

It is an annual ritual of anticipation whereby the first crops of summer in the farmers market create an appetite for the next ones. Asparagus brings thoughts of strawberries. Strawberries bring thoughts of peaches. We have yet to spot the peaches in person this year, but for our weekend art post about food we pique the appetite more.

This painting is from 20th century Chinese artist Qi Baishi, a prominent and celebrated contemporary Chinese painter. Originally trained as a carpenter, he taught himself to paint using a classical text from the Qing era. He later developed a free-style approach under the instruction of one of several mentors. Amazingly prolific, he lived to the age of 93, a life spanning some of the most tumultuous moments in Chinese history, from the end of the dynasties to the rise of the communists. He received great acclaim during his life, which still continues. In 2017, one of his works broke the record for a Chinese painter at auction.

Peaches were a frequent subject for Qi. As the Princeton Museum, which holds a similar painting, notes: “As symbols of longevity, peaches often appear in paintings with other emblems of immortality, such as deer or cranes. Ancient fables include descriptions of special peaches from the paradise of the Queen Mother of the West that imparted immortality when eaten. There a peach banquet was held every six thousand years for the deities to ensure their everlasting existence.”

Not all thoughts of peaches are sweet. Apropos of this weekend’s holiday, there is the reminder that many peaches grow in much the same swath of land as the so-called cotton belt that remains a geographic marker of the legacy of slavery in our country. And we can still hear the sage words of a child of the Depression who grew up in the Central Valley of California when talking later about more modern, less-taxing work, “It sure beats picking peaches for two dollars a day.” Those of us of a certain age and sensibility will also recognize the irony of peaches as a symbol of longevity.

Against those deeper thoughts, there are sweet ones. Like the simple waiting for that moment when we dare to eat the first peach of summer, ripe with juice, while leaning over the kitchen sink. Enjoy it when it comes. And maybe even wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.


If you are looking for a place to eat in D.C. to enjoy the summer bounty, we have some obvious suggestions and scores more. We have 300+ recommended restaurants in the guide, that you can sort by cuisine, neighborhood, and current operating status (dine-in and/or take-out, etc.) in either LIST or MAP format.  Though operating status is changing day-to-day, so be sure to double-check.

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