Peonies & Co.: The Enchanting Power of the Chinese Flower

Written by Maria Giglio

Attention boyfriends of the world, I’m about to tell you the secret to a woman’s heart: if you love her, bring her flowers. That’s right, that’s it. Every woman in the world has a thing with flowers… unless she’s allergic, of course. In any case, no doubt she will fall in your arms. But why? Well, for starters it’s the simplest gesture to show appreciation to your other half. Plus, because there is a mystic, millennial symbolic connection between flowers and women.

Many cultures worship flowers as a universal image of feminine grace, beauty and prosperity. For example, in Christian tradition the Virgin Mary is often associated with the lily, symbol of purity or referred to as “Mystical Rose” without thorn to represent her sinless nature. In Buddhist culture, the lotus is worshipped as a symbol of perfection and fertility; resembling the woman’s uterus with its rounded shape, this flower is known for its incredible beauty and the capacity to stay clean despite flourishing in swamps and wet habitats. The energising power of flowers and spring are immortalised in Botticelli’s eternal masterpiece La Primavera.

In Botticelli’s La Primavera, Flora (3rd figure on the right) personifies the rebirth of Spring wearing a floral dress

Naturally, this charming love story between flowers and women reaches one of its highest peeks in Chinese culture, where it has been widely celebrated over millennia by a prosperous artistic tradition.

Chinese blossoms

Since ancient times, the Chinese have cultivated a true passion for flowers, by decorating their public and private spaces with beautiful gardens. Interestingly, the Chinese word for flower is “花” (huā) and visually represents the magic of a flower in bloom. In fact, the character is a compound, growing from the radical for grass “艹” under which the magic joyful metamorphosis of a plant when producing flowers is represented by a cheerful character.

On the twelfth day of the second month of each lunar year, as soon as nature awakens, a Spring Festival is held in honour of百花深 (Bǎihuā shēn), the White Goddess of Flowers, to celebrate fertility. As in other cultures, Chinese people too associate flowers with women and beauty very frequently, although the symbology related to flowers is much richer and varied, as evidenced by traditional and tribal art and poetry production.

Pink peonies

King of Flowers

Among the many flowers linked to Chinese culture, peony is certainly the most treasured by Chinese people. The equivalent of the Westerners’ beloved rose, the peony is also known as the king of flowers (花王, Huāwáng), existing in two main varieties, the tree and herbaceous peony. The original Chinese word for the herbaceous peony was 芍药 (sháo yào) to refer to the medical properties of the flower. Shao (芍) means in fact a spoonful (勺) of plant (艹), whereas yao (药) means medicine. After a while, both the tree and herbaceous varieties were known as 牡丹 (mudan). This word consists of two characters. The character 牡 (mu) is composed of the radicals for ox (牛) and and earth (土). The character 丹 (dan) means either pill, probably referring to the healing properties ascribed to the peony in Traditional Chinese Medicine, or the typical colour red, as a typical variety of the flower.

An ancient passion

Up until the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912 A.D.), the peony was renowned as the official national flower of China, as per appointment by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1903. As a matter of fact, Chinese passion for this flower sprang around 1,400 years ago. During the Tang Dynasty (around 600 A.D.) peonies started to be employed to decorate the imperial gardens and soon began to spread everywhere else in China. An imperial emblem of opulence and beauty, peonies were featured in paintings and textiles, as well as used in poetical allegories to celebrate the prosperity of the nation. Among the most valuable, the red ones represent wealth, while white peonies symbolize the beauty and cheerfulness of Chinese young girl.

Cultivating national pride

After the Cultural Revolution, the Peony is not recognised the official status of national flower anymore, though its fame and glorious reputation is unvaried in the heart of the Chinese people as it embodies the national hope for an ever-growing prosperity. Over the last twenty years people already expressed their willing twice by casting a ballot (one in 1994 and one 2003) for a renovated official acknowledgment by the Government of the peony as a national emblem. The proposal is still pending.

Although Chinese peonies can be found almost everywhere in the country, Luoyang (Henan Province, Eastern China) is certainly the best place to admire their beautiful blossoms. Renowned as the city of peonies, Luoyang offers a spectacular Peony garden showcasing over 500 varieties in full bloom. The garden is famous for hosting a peony high over 3 metres and as old as 1,600 years.

A view of Luoyang Peony Garden

Flowers in Chinese traditional fashion: take your pick!

The passion for flowers is vividly featured in the traditional apparel of Chinese people.

Back in the 60s Scott McKenzie used to sing “if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair”. If you insteadwant to wear flowers everywhere, check out our exclusive florid collection of handmade Qipaos!

Amongst the 56 minorities in China, Miao people hold pomegranate blossoms 石榴花 (Shíliú huā) particularly at heart. A national cultural heritage as enlisted by UNESCO, Miao embroidery features pomegranate flowers to symbolise the wish for prosperity. If you want a taste of this true textile rarity, check out these handmade bags that our Miao artisan partners have created exclusively for our costumers!

If you smell a nice deal… Discover these and more products on InteractChina.com!


About Interact China 

“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”  

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste. 

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts. 

Shape

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!  
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you! 

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Early bloomers in Chinese paintings

Chinese painters love nothing more than spring flowers when they depict spring scenes. Those early bloomers bring the first burst of color onto the drawing boards of a new year. Here is a list of spring flowers in Chinese paintings. You may find some fabulous scenes of spring, and you can just enjoy the pleasant season without going outdoors.

Canola plants

A painting of canola flowers by Shen Xinggong.
 Chinese Painting

Canola plants not only provide us with the world’s major source of vegetable oil, but also stunning spring scenes, when fields of canola flowers transfer the landscape into a huge golden blanket.

Peach blossoms

A painting of peach blossoms by Zhou Chunya.
 Chinese Painting

Peach blossoms are highly appreciated in Chinese culture. It is believed that the peach possesses more vitality than any other tree because its blossoms appear before leaves sprout.

Pear blossoms

A painting of pear blossoms by Yu Jigao.
 Chinese Painting

Beautiful things are often fleeting. Pear blossoms always seem to bloom in profusion overnight and are soon washed away by the rain before people realize they are there.

Cherry blossoms

A painting of cherry blossoms by Fang Chuxiong.
 Chinese Painting

Although the cherry blossom is part of the Japanese culture, the delicate pink flowers are enjoyed in most cities around the world.

Peony

A painting of peony by Yu Feian.
 Chinese Painting

Peony is the traditional flower symbol of China, and was formerly grown only for the Chinese emperor. The massive blooms are often associated with fortune, prosperity, and nobility.

Crabapple blossoms

A painting of crabapple blossoms by Zhang Shizeng.
 Chinese Painting

The famous traditional Chinese medicine doctor of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), Sun Simiao, considered the blossom as an herbal medicine to resist some heart diseases.

Magnolias

A painting of magnolias by Huang Yongyu.
 Chinese Painting

Long-lived magnolia trees were loved by ancient Chinese royal families, and often planted in the temple.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!