Chinese Flowers and Their Meanings
The Chinese culture is rich with flower symbolism that permeates both cultural practices and artistic expression. Because flowers have meaning, choosing the right flower for the occasion is important. Overlooking the underlying meaning of the flower can sent the wrong message.
Flower Color Meanings
- White: While white flowers represent innocence and purity in the American culture, they are the opposite in the Chinese culture. White represents death and ghosts to the Chinese people and are often found at funerals.
- Red and Pink: Red and pink represent life and celebration.
Common Chinese Flower Symbolism
- Lotus: The lotus is one of the most significant flowers in the Chinese culture. It symbolizes the holy seat of Buddha. Because the flower rises from the mud and blooms in exquisite beauty it symbolizes perfection and purity of both the heart and mind. It also represents long life and honor. The lotus flower is depicted in Chinese art, poetry and architecture.
- Chrysanthemums: The Chrysanthemum is one flower where the color white gives it a positive meaning. White chrysanthemums represent nobility and elegance. They are also thought to attract good luck to the home and represent a life of ease. They are often used for offerings at altars. Chrysanthemums are also a favored gift for the elderly as they represent a strong life force.
- Peonies: The peony is the unofficial Chinese National Flower. It stands as a symbol of spring and female beauty and reproduction. It also represents richness, honor and high social class. It is a favored flower for the 12th wedding anniversary. Peonies from Luoyang are considered the best in the country and are showcased in a festival held in Louyang in April or May of each year.
- Orchids: Orchids symbolize scholarly pursuit and represent nobility, integrity and friendship. They symbolize a cultured gentleman and scholar and are often featured in artwork. Orchids are associated with the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius who likened the orchid to an honorable man. They may be seen in religious and wedding ceremonies or as décor in homes.
Negative Flower Meanings
Unhealthy or poorly formed flowers always send a negative message, but some flowers are taboo regardless of their condition.
- Blooming Trees: While Americans are accustomed to presenting flowering branches as symbols of spring or rebirth, in the Chinese culture, flowers from blooming trees are seen as a sign of an unfaithful lover as the petals are easily scattered.
- Duckweed: This flower has no roots and contradicts the Chinese value of family roots and unity.
- Thorny Stems: Any flower that grows on a thorny stem is seen as a symbol of unhappiness and pain.
Flowers For Special Occasions
- Chinese Wedding Flowers:
- Orchids – Orchids symbolize love and marriage. They also represent wealth and good fortune.
- Lotus – A lotus with one leaf and a bud represents a complete union, while a lotus with one stem symbolizes a shared heart and harmony.
- Lilies – Lilies symbolize a happy union that lasts for 100 years.
- Chinese Funeral Flowers: The Chinese funeral ritual is a sacred affair devoid of bright colors. This includes flowers. White iris wreaths are the traditional Chinese funeral arrangements. They contain white envelopes with cash to help pay the funeral costs.
- Flowers of the Four Seasons: In the Chinese culture, specific flowers represent the seasons.
- Winter: Plum Blossom
- Spring: Orchid
- Summer: Lotus
- Fall: Chrysanthemum
The health and condition of the the flower also conveys meaning in the Chinese culture. Choose only the healthiest plants and flowers with well-formed blooms when choosing flowers for a celebration or to honor someone from China.