Flowers in Chinese culture

Flowers are important to the Chinese in many ways. You will find expressions of flowers in ancient art, poetry, music, paintings and they play a symbolic role during special celebrations such as Chinese New Year and Chinese Lantern Festival.

Celebrating Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year wouldn't be complete without flowers. It's traditional to decorate your house with flowers that represent rebirth, growth, prosperity and good luck. So bring cherry blossom, peonies, lucky bamboo, orchids or narcissus with you when you get invited to celebrate Lunar New Year somewhere.

Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day after Chinese New Year and marks the end of the Spring Festival celebration. Originating from the Han Dynasty, this festival has long been celebrated by Chinese all over the world. On this day, people would watch handmade lanterns and eat Tang Yuan.

Lantern Festival is also a day to celebrate love, devotion and affection between lovers by gifting flowers to your beloved one. For this occassion will lilies, peonies or roses be good.

The meaning of flowers

Flowers symbolize hope, beauty, new beginning, affection and an overflowing basket of flowers or fruit stand for riches and wealth. You will find many paintings of fruits and flowers in Chinese art.

Game on with flowers

Flowers are pervasive in many ways in the Chinese culture, such as the seasonal association of the four virtuous plants. The orchid for spring, bamboo for summer, chrysanthemum for autumn, and plum blossom for winter. Incidentally, these make up the four flower tiles in Mahjong games.

The 5 most important flowers in Chinese Culture

Lucky lilies

Lilies are amongst the most popular flowers for the Lateran festival. Commonly they mean devotion or purity and they are also tied to good luck.

• White lilies symbolize purity and virtue.

• Pink (stargazer) lilies symbolize prosperity and abundance.

• Red lilies symbolize passion.

• Orange (tiger) lilies symbolize confidence, pride, and wealth.

• Yellow lilies symbolize thankfulness and desire for enjoyment.

King of the flowers

The Peonies are among the most quintessential flowers in Chinese art and poetry. Peonies are so quintessential that they were declared China’s national flower by the Qing dynasty in 1903. While “peony” is typically translated as Mudan (Chinese: 牡丹; pinyin: mǔdān), it is also known as the “flower of riches and honor” or “the king of the flowers”.

Chinese poetry and the chrysant

Chrysanthemums are associated with the famous Chinese poet Tao Yuanming. In one of his works, he referred Chrysanthemums as a symbol of humility. He wrote: “While picking up chrysanthemums beneath the eastern fence, my gaze was leisurely upon the southern mountains”. This is one of the most famous Chinese poems that reflects a peaceful and nourishing life which is every common man’s dream. In Chinese culture, chrysanthemum also symbolises longevity. As per the ancient Chinese Medicinal Theory, chrysanthemum tea is great medicine for curing internal heat and fever. People in China thus never forget to drink this special tea after having too spicy and cheesy or baked food items. In China, people use dry Chrysanthemum petals to make their pillows and they are good for eyesight.


When the European haltered in China they found the Hibiscus. It was the only ornamental plant that they took back with them. Meng Chang, the last king of the Later Shu State (during the time of the 5 Dynasties) had a special liking towards this flower. He ordered his people to grow hibiscus flowers around Chengdu (which later came to be known as “city of hibiscus”). The hibiscus is one of the most famous Chinese flowers that symbolises glory, fame, and splendor.

Plum blossom

Mao Zedong – the most influential revolutionary of China who named the country “The People’s Republic of China” once wrote a poem named “Ode to the Plum Blossom”. He described these flowers as: “Fair and beautiful. Not craving for spring for her own, o

nly to tell the coming of the season. When all flowers bloom in full, she smiles among them.” The plum blossoms were metaphors to appreciate the great martyrs. In Chinese culture, plum blossom symbolises noble and modest qualities and along with bamboo, chrysanthemum, and orchid, they are known as the “Four Gentlemen”.

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