Chinese Flowers — Month Flowers in Traditional Calendar and Their Cultural Meanings
Each month is represented by a Chinese flower with auspicious, cultural meanings, which formed the 12 flower months.
These traditional Chinese flowers have been frequently described and praised in poems, paintings, and artifacts, and each of them has a flower goddess to represent its beauty and virtues.
January Flower Plum Blossom — Flower of Strong, Noble, and Modest
Plum Blossom, the Flower of January, is also the flower of Five Blessings (in Chinese is Wufu), whose five petals represent happiness, wealth, longevity, peace, and success.
They blossom in harsh winter, therefore, the plum blossom has been representative of strength and courage.
Documented more than 3200 years ago, the plum was firstly used as flavorings, food, and sacrificial offerings.
Centuries later, more types and numbers of the flower were cultivated, when Chinese people started to use plum blossoms in cosmetics, medications, and as ornamental flowers.
During Tang (618 — 907) and Song (960 — 1279) dynasties, more scholars and artists became big fans of the beautiful flower blossoming in cold January, for its beautiful appearance, fragrance, and virtues, and developed a whole ornamental theory that includes appreciating place, time, shape, and activities, etc.
Plum blossom, together with orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum (September Flower), formed the "Four Gentlemen" or "Four Noble Ones" in Chinese art, each one represents some virtues and highly valued characters.
Since then, the plum blossom has been frequently praised in poems and artworks and is a popular decorative pattern in Chinese people's daily lives.
Poem about Plum Blossom by Wang Anshi (1021 — 1086):
Plum Blossom Shape and Pattern Silver Liquid Container "Yu" of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
February Flower Apricot Blossom — Flower of Lucky and Fortunate
Apricot blossom, the Flower of February, has the same pronunciation as "lucky" in Chinese.
Hence, it is representative of good luck and blessed life.
The blooming of the apricot flower means spring is coming.
Documented over 3000 years ago, the apricot flower has been used as food, sacrificial offering, medication, cosmetics, and decorative patterns in China.
With light red or pink, tinged in pure white petals, the apricot flower is also the symbol of purity, artsy, and beauty.
Poem about Apricot blossom by Yang Wanli (1127 — 1206):
Apricot Blossoms Painted by Artist Yun Shouping (1633 — 1690) — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
March Flower Peach Blossom — Flower of Longevity and Love
Peach Blossom, the Flower of March, is a popular flora in both mystical and secular worlds.
As the plant of powerful immortals, the peach has been representative of longevity in Chinese culture.
March Flower Peach Blossom in Painting of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Peach trees are productive, while peach blossoms are beautiful and attractive.
Hence, peach flowers, since the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), have been symbols of love, romance, beautiful women, and blessed couples.
Peach Blossom in Shijing, Compiled by Confucius (551 BC — 479 BC):
Peach Blossom Forest in Linzhi of Tibet
April Flower Peony — Flower of Brightness, Glory, and Wealth
Peony, the Flower of April, is renowned as the King of Flowers in traditional Chinese culture, as the symbol of wealth, prosperity, and honor.
Firstly used as valuable medication in ancient times, peony got cultivated in scale by people in Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 — 589), introduced to royals in Sui Dynasty (581 — 618), and became highly valued in Tang Dynasty (618 — 907).
In the prosperous Tang Empire, peony flowers were cultivated everywhere, from the royal palaces to civilians' gardens.
The glossy, large, colorful, and fragrant peony flowers have been widely praised and portrayed and became a representative of the flourishing Tang Dynasty.
Peony art, including poems, paintings, artworks, cosmetics, peony pattern jewelry, and decorations, all flourished during this period as well.
Since then, the peony has become one of the most popular flowers in China.
Poem of Peony by Liu Yuxi (772 — 842): 唯有牡丹真国色，花开时节动京城。
May Flower Pomegranate Blossom — Flower of Happy Marriage, Maturity, and Wealthy
It looks like a beautiful red skirt, hence, a famous type of women's gorgeous dress was named after the Pomegranate flower (in Chinese is Shiliu Qun).
Pomegranate Flower Dresses or Shiliu Qun in Painting "Zanhua Shinv Tu", By Artist Zhou Fang of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Liaoning Museum
After it was popularized from the gardens of Chinese Emperors to civilians, Pomegranate became the symbol of beautiful and mature women.
Meanwhile, because of its prolificacy, Pomegranate had been widely used in Traditional Chinese Wedding, as the representative of productivity, flourishing, and wealth.
Poem about Pomegranate by Han Yu (768 — 824):
May Flower Pomegranate Blossom, Photo by Dongmaiying.
June Flower Lotus — Flower of Elegance, Harmony, and Purity
Lotus, the Flower of June, comes from silt but stays pure and beautiful, and has a similar pronunciation as "Harmony".
Therefore, lotus has been representative of grace, purity, elegance, noble, peace, and harmony.
Lotus Shaped Secret Color Porcelain Bowl of the Five Dynasties (907 — 960) — Suzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Documented and cultivated no later than the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BC — 256 BC), lotus has been widely used in Chinese medicine, food, artworks, and cosmetics, and praised by countless scholars.
Poem about Lotus by Li Bai (701 — 762): 竹色溪下绿，荷花镜里香。
July Flower Balsamine — The Incarnation of Phenix and the Flower of Energy
Besides, it has been widely used in medication and cosmetology, especially for painting fingernails.
Therefore, the Balsamine flower is representative of attractiveness, beauty, and energy.
Poem about Balsamine by Wu Renbi of late Tang Dynasty (618 — 907):
July Flower Balsamine
August Flower Osmanthus Blossom — Flower of Moon, Noble, Honor, and Champion
Osmanthus, the Flower of August, is the representative of the moon and championship.
In history, the Imperial Examination, which was held to elect officials, was always held in August when Osmanthus blossoms. People who won first place in the examination were referred to as "Snapped an Osmanthus' Twig".
In the Chinese language, the pronunciation of Osmanthus is the same as "Richness".
Therefore, the sweet-scented Osmanthus is the symbol of success, honor, blessing, and wealth.
August Flower Osmanthus Blossom and the Moon
Meanwhile, the Mid Autumn Festival, one of the most important Chinese holidays to celebrate harvest and reunion with family, is on the 15th of August.
On this holiday, worshiping the moon, drinking Osmanthus wine, and eating mooncakes and Osmanthus cakes are popular activities.
Poem about Osmanthus by Zhu Xi (1130 — 1200):
Osmanthus Cakes or Guihua Gao, Picture from lcmtxz.
September Flower Chrysanthemum — Flower of Longevity, Auspiciousness, and Decency
Additionally, nine is the strongest number in ancient Chinese culture that represents eternity. Click to read more about the Cultural Importance of Nine
Therefore, Chrysanthemum is representative of longevity.
Handcrafted Chrysanthemum in Potted Landscape of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Since over 3000 years ago, chrysanthemum flowers have been cultivated to make food and wine, which are believed good for health, especially eyesight.
Later, Tao Yuanming (about 365 — 427), a renowned scholar frequently eulogized Chrysanthemum in his poems as a sign of integrity and fortitude.
Since then, these virtues have been highly appreciated and praised by more poets, and became one of the "Four Gentlemen" or "Four Noble Ones" in Chinese art, together with plum blossom (January Flower), orchid, and bamboo.
Poem about Chrysanthemum by Tao Yuanming: 秋菊有佳色，裛露掇其英。
September Flower Chrysanthemums
October Flower Hibiscus — Flower of Virtue and Gorgeousness
Hibiscus, the Flower of October, has bright colors, beautiful appearances, and a pronunciation that is similar to the "Husband" in Chinese.
Therefore, it is representative of people with outstanding morals, gorgeous women, and one's deep longings for their beloved ones.
Poem about Hibiscus by Wang Wei (701 — 761):
October Flower Hibiscus
November Flower Camellia — Flower of Auspiciousness, Persistence, and Elegance
Camellia, the Flower of November, blooms in late autumn and can last for months. Since the Three Kingdoms (220 — 280), people have been planting Camellia in yards to admire the beauty, drink them as scented tea, and use them in food and medication.
The stunning beauty, rich colors, and long florescence in cold weather made Camellia the representative of auspiciousness, persistence, and elegance.
Poem about Camellia by Lu You (1125 — 1210):
December Flower Narcissus — Flower of Purity and Blessing
Narcissus, the Flower of December, was introduced to China about 1000 years ago and was cultivated and served as medication, cosmetics, and decorative potted landscapes.
Narcissus was named as a flower fairy in the water, which has many versions of legends in regard to its incarnation.
December Flower Narcissus
Gorgeous flowers from the clean water and the fairy-related stories, together, made Narcissus the representative of purity and auspiciousness in Chinese culture.
Poem about Narcissus by Yang Wanli (1127 — 1206):
Pictures of the 12 Flower Goddesses are Painted by Tan Qifen and Luo Lan.
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