In the long tapestry of Chinese history, flowers have always had a special place. Still, only the Plum Blossom has become China’s National Flower. Considered deeply symbolic, flowers are present in every aspect of life in China. This is evident in everything from art and folklore to everyday life. Even though peonies, chrysanthemums and orchids also play an important role for Chinese people, plum blossoms are the clear winners. Extremely popular both for its beauty and benefits, Chinese officials crowned plum blossoms the national flower on July, 21 1964. This decree replaced another national favorite, the peony, on the flower pedestal. Let’s take a deeper look at China’s national flower.
Plum Blossom Symbolism
While plum blossom is the official name of the plant, Chinese people refer to is as “mei”. Translated directly, this means “flowering plum” or “winter plum”. In Chinese tradition, the plum blossom is one of the three “friends of winter” along with bamboo and pine. As you can imagine, all these winter friends are chosen for their hardiness. One of the few plants that can bloom through the harsh conditions of cold of winter months, it represents the value of endurance, resilience, and diligence in the face of hardships.
Bright and cheerful plum blossom blooms miraculously against the barren winter landscape, and give the Chinese people hope. They also herald the coming of spring. China’s National Flower also stands for purity, faith, strength and courage. It proves the common believe that characters are hardened through experience, which cultivates inner strength, faith and an unbending spirit.
About China’s National Flower ,
The Chinese national flower has earned its place among popular blooms in China, and people call it “the queen of flowers” for a reason. A bloom that belongs to the rose family, plum blossom has a strong and very pleasant fragrance just like its sister rose. Five delicate petals come in a shade of pink, white or red. Each petal symbolizes one of the five blessings: longevity, prosperity, health, honor, and good living. The pink or red plum blossom is also the symbol for Chinese New Year which is celebrated in late January and early February.
Despite the plum blossoms’ short lives, they boast more than 300 varieties; these start to blossom in midwinter, then leaves come out later in spring. This makes China’s national flower unique, separating it from other plants that don’t start blooming until springtime.
Plum Blossom History
Cultivated in the country for thousands of years, plum blossom has historical importance for Chinese people. Originated in southwest China, the cultivators brought the hardy plant to colder regions. Later, they exported it to Korea and Japan, making it one of the most symbolic flowers in Asian culture.
While China’s national flower has been used as food (mostly herbal tea) and treasured in gardens for almost three thousand years, it didn’t gain popularity until the princess and her court started using plum blossoms for decoration in the 5th century. At the same time many Chinese poets also started dedicating poems to the beauty of the winter bloom adding to its popularity among ordinary people.
The Meaning of Plum Blossom in Chinese Culture
The most beloved flower in China, the plum blossom is a mainstay in traditional Chinese art and literature. Reflecting the artist’s noble spirit for thousands of years, it has depicted in countless pictures. The plum blossom has even given rise to its own genre in paintings and poems. Today, the plum blossom appears in stage shows for classical Chinese dances that celebrates the flower’s beauty, purity and endurance through movement and music. In addition, the flower often appears on traditional costumes and jewelry.
The elemental balance in nature embody significant cultural values that have always been important to Chinese people. Thousands of years ago plum blossoms and other beloved blooms such as orchids, chrysanthemums and bamboo were named the “four nobles” because they were associated with virtues like innocence, modesty and honesty. Confucian scholar Zhu Xi went further. He conferred four merits on the plum blossom alone. According to Zhu Xi this flowers properties are: great potential (in the bud), wealth (in the flower), harmony (in the fruit), and justice (in mature plant). These characteristics embody the notion of heaven according to the Chinese Book of Change.
Highly available and cultivated nationwide in China, plum blossom is one of the most popular flowers among the Chinese. Its long history and significance make the plum blossom truly special enough to name their national flower.
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