If you search the English word “ginseng fruit” on the Internet today, you would see some weird pictures and articles about this “creep fruit in China” in the shape of infants. Does this fruit really exist? Well it exists in Chinese mythology and is called ginseng fruit 人参果.
Ginseng is the English translation from the Chinese word RenShen 人参, the root of plants in the genus Panax, which has been used in tradional Chinese medicine over centuries. Ren 人 means people or person in Chinese and Shen 参 means plant root. If you have seen ginseng, the shape is kind looks like a person, which maybe the reason Chinese people thought it had health benefits centuries ago.
Ginseng fruit is totally different thing, which only exits in Chinese mythology. I don’t know how the person came up with this concept , however, considering the name and the shape, I assume it probably was inspired by ginseng. In the book ShuYiJi 述异记 from the Southern Dynasty 南朝, which is between the year 420 ~ 479, it says, the Kingdom DaShi 大食国 is in the West Sea 西海. There is a square shaped rock on which there are plenty of trees. The trees have red trunks and green leaves. There are human like infants growing on the branches, around 6~ 7 Cun寸, around 14~17 cm. Their heads are attached to the branches. They smile when they see people and move their arms and legs around. When you pick one fruit from the branch, the infant would die.
In the book Journey to the West 西游记from the Ming Dynasty 明朝, it says this ginseng fruit is also called CaoHuanDan 草还 丹. It blooms once in 3000 years, and the fruits start to grow in another 3000 years, and it takes another 3000 years to ripe. All in all it takes a little less than 10000 years to eat a ripe ginseng fruit. What’s more, there are only 30 of them on the tree. The fruits look just like an infant with arms and legs, eyes and mouths. If you are so lucky just to smell the ginseng fruit, you can live for 360 years. If you eat one, you can live for 47000 years. In the book ZhuBaJie 猪八戒 couldn’t help himself and pursuated the Monkey king to pick up three ginseng fruits and shared Sha Wujing 沙悟净.
There is a kind of white with purple strips fruit in real life called Ginseng fruit 人参果 in China, totally a different thing and has nothing to do with infants. It is called pepino or pepino melon, melon pear in English, native to South America. It is small and round and tastes like a juicy cucumber. I don’t know when it was first shipped to China. Some people say it is called Ginseng fruit is due to the Tibetan name of it meaning living forever fruit. I don’t know if it is the truth.
If you search ginseng fruit on the Internet and see some pictures of creepy infant shaped fruits, don’t be freak out. They are probably pears molded into a baby shape when they grow or something. I know some people selling the seeds of Ginseng fruit with pictures of the infants shaped fruits on eBay, I don’t know if it comes up a package with some baby shaped molds or something. But if any of you try to plant them, please let me know how it goes and if it can make you live forever.
西游记 Journey to the West