In China the Buddha’s Hand citron symbolizes happiness and long life, because its name, “fo-shou”, has those meanings when written with other characters. Chinese like to carry the fruit in their hands, place it on tables in their homes, and present it as a sacrificial offering at temple altars. Though esteemed chiefly for its exquisite form and aroma, the Buddha’s Hand fruit is also eaten in desserts and savory dishes, and the sliced, dried peel of immature fruits is prescribed as a tonic in traditional medicine. The tree is very popular as an ornamental, often in bonsai form, in pots. The Buddha’s Hand was important by the 10th century A.D. in Fujian. Chinese artists classically depicted the fruit in jade and ivory carvings, in prints, and on lacquered wood panels (Simoons, 1991).You can grow a Buddha's hand tree yourself, as long as you have a completely frost-free environment. While there are an estimated 2,000 hectares of Buddha's hand cultivation in China, UC Riverside estimates there were only about 10 hectres in California as of 2008. In the U.S., it's a rare—and expensive—treat.
In Japan the “bushukan,” as the Buddha’s Hand citron is called, is a popular gift at New Year’s, for it is believed to bestow good fortune on a household. The Japanese buy the fruit at decorative ornament shops, and place it on top of specially pounded rice cakes, or use it in lieu of flowers in the home’s sacredtokonoma alcove (Elizabeth Andoh, pers. comm., 1997).
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