Of Burmese Alchemists and Fruit Maidens

Alchemy came to Burma from neighboring India in the middle of 5th century AD. Whereas in Europe the movement had a more or less "scientific" edge, in Burma alchemy became almost a religious cult, and until the end of 11th century competed with Buddhism.

The Burmese alchemists focused on attaining eternal youth, unfading beauty, perfect body health and very long life (over 1000 years). But was a "successful" alchemist happy after reaching his goal? Here is what I’ve been told by the half-faded frescoes of an ancient temple in the Shan State (Eastern part of Burma).

Alchemists were very lonely. They had no need for food, but sometimes ate fruit. The smell of meat was extremely repulsive to them. For this reason alchemists couldn’t stand the company of people for more than a couple of minutes. Yet they were not ascetics, and their young and beautiful bodies craved for love and pleasure. The ordinary women, being meat eaters, were not an option: way too stinky! So the alchemists had to look for a worthy substitute.

On the slopes of the Himalayas they found special trees whose fruit matched the size and shape of a woman. With alchemy they could breathe some “life” into them, so that the fruit became animated. Alchemists made ove to these “fruit maidens” with passion and enthusiasm. But the fruit quickly got crushed and lost functionality. Unfortunately, this type of tree was quite rare, even in the Himalayas, whilst the demand from the alchemists was substantial. It is said that fights over the "fruit maidens" were quite common.

There is a softer version of the legend, saying that the trees produced sleeping virgins as their fruit. And the alchemist had the power to awaken them, but only one at a time, and only for one night. However, this doesn’t really change the essence of this story, does it?