Flowers in Chinese Culture

Flowers in Chinese Culture

Flowers are a recurring theme in Chinese culture. Found in art and poetry, painted onto silk, carved into furniture, stitched into textiles, each bloom has its own meaning and symbolism. In the photograph below, a wall is papered with hand-painted silk wallpaper. The detail in the paintings, depicting flowers, birds and butterflies, is absolutely exquisite.

Chinese silk wallpaper

The symbolism of a flower is often based on its pronunciation’s similarity to another word. For example, lilies are popular at weddings as the word for ‘lily’ sounds like part of a famous proverb describing a ‘happy union for one hundred years’.

Orchids are another popular flower at Chinese weddings, as they symbolise love, wealth and fortune. They are also emblematic of fertility. Orchids have been loved by Chinese scholars since ancient times, and represent integrity, nobility and friendship, all considered the virtues of a perfectly cultured gentleman. The philosopher Confucius compared the orchid to a virtuous man.

Flowers represent each of the seasons, with iris and magnolia for spring, peony and lotus for summer, chrysanthemum for autumn and plum for winter. Plum blossom represents the value of endurance – as a famous traditional poem says: “the fragrance of plum blossom comes from bitterness and coldness.”

Chinese flowers

The peony is considered by many to be the country’s national flower and even has a festival dedicated to it. The peony symbolises riches, prosperity and honour. In art, it is also used as a metaphor for female beauty and reproduction. Pictured in full bloom, it symbolises peace. Vases and other ornaments are often decorated with peonies: the peony acts as an amulet, believed to bring good luck and happy feelings. Our peony vase in red resin and lacquer is pictured right. 

The daffodil or narcissus is native to China and is known as ‘the water goddess.’ The flower is said to have the ability to rout out evil spirits.

In Feng Shui, flowers are used to bring good fortune and success in the home. Healthy flowering plants manifest good Chi (or energy). It’s said that as the flower blooms, so does the intellect and spirit.

Chrysanthemums would be an excellent gift when visiting a home (but not white ones, as they represent death) and are used by Buddhists as offerings on the altars. They are thought to bring powerful Yang energy and attract good luck to a house.

Red Chinese Peony Vase

If you love the symbolism of flowers, you’ll find audacious florals blossoming across our website. From antique cabinets painted with delicately faded florals to striking silk wallpaper adorned with cherry blossom, there are blooms to suit all tastes. You can also see more of the florals which inspire us on our Blooms Pinterest board.

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