Flower symbolism in Chinese Furniture

Flower symbolism in Chinese Furniture

Flowers have been used as a visual symbol in China for many centuries, expressing good wishes and aspirations for the future. They are often seen in the paintings used to decorate Chinese furniture, with different flowers used to portray different meanings for the owner or recipient or an item depending on it's use. It was always important for the artist decorating a cabinet or trunk to choose the right flowers in their designs, as overlooking the meaning of a particular flower could easily send the wrong message.

We've picked below out some of the most common types of flower used as symbols in Chinese culture. You'll find many of these on the paintings of our Chinese antique furniture, as well as on our decorative ceramic lamps and oriental art, with a number of examples shown here.

Floral Painted Chinese SideboardPeonies have been popular in China since at least the 9th century BC and are beloved of Chinese artists and poets. the peony was considered ‘the king of flowers’ and associated with the imperial family, who as early as the Tang dynasty (618-907) grew it in the palace gardens. It is known as the flower of ‘wealth and honour’, and was traditionally a token of love and exchanged as a farewell gift. The wonderful Chinese sideboard shown above has beautifully painted images of various types of flowers including peonies, depicting a symbol of high rank and status.

Painted Chinese Storage BoxChrysanthemums are associated with longevity and wealth, because the name sounds similar to the word 'jiu', meaning ‘long enduring’, and infusions made from their petals are believed to have medicinal properties. Chrysanthemums represent autumn and, like peonies, are mentioned in Chinese literature as early as the 9th century BC. This quaint red lacquer storage box comes from Qinghai province in western China and is beautifully decorated with a Golden Pheasant (a symbol of nobility) stood amongst Chrysanthemums.

Lian Wen JarPictured right is our Lian Wen Jar with blue paintings that depict floral scrolls including Peonies, Chrysanthemums and Lotus flowers. A beautiful and stylish ceramic piece that will complement our furniture in a modern home.

Jasmine LampJasmine is the symbol of eternal love in Chinese culture and also one of the holy flowers of Buddhism, which has been an important religion in China. The flowers of “Arabian jasmine” were appreciated for their fragrance and used in the 18th century to decorate and perfume the Emperor's room. Shown left, our red and gold Jasmine Vase lamp.

Lotus flowers are one of the most significant flowers in the Chinese culture and symbolize the holy seat of Buddha. Because the flower rises from the mud and and is considered so beautiful, it is seen to represent perfection and purity of both the heart and mind. It is also linked closely to Buddhism, thought to represent the throne or holy seat of Buddha and therefore associated with enlightenment and peace.

Hand Painted Silk PanelCherry Blossom in China is associated with female beauty and dominance, as well as feminine sexuality. It ultimately symbolises power and strength. However, within the Chinese herbal traditions, the cherry blossom is often a symbol of love and passion. Shown right, our hand painted silk panel featuring flower blossom.

Orchids symbolize scholarly pursuit and represent nobility, integrity and friendship. They are associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, who likened the orchid to an honorable man. They are often used in religious and wedding ceremonies or to decorate an interior.

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