Chinese Flowers — Month Flowers in Traditional Calendar and Their Cultural Meanings

The Traditional Chinese Calendar is a Lunisolar Calendar, which includes 24 Solar Terms that correspond to the movement of the Sun, and 12 months to note the activities of the Moon. 

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

Jan.

February Flower Apricot Blossom

Feb.

March Flower Peach Blossom

Mar.

April Flower Peony

Apr.

May Flower Pomegranate

May

June Flower Lotus

June

July Flower Balsamine

July

August Flower Osmanthus Blossom

Aug.

September Flower Chrysanthemum

Sept.

October Flower Hibiscus

Oct.

November Flower Camellia

Nov.

December Flower Narcissus

Dec.

January Flower

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.

Taoist Temple Zhizhi An of Mount Wuyi

January Flower Plum Blossom in Front of Zhizhi An Temple of Mount Wuyi

Chinese Flower Goddess of the January Flower Plum Blossom

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):

 

墙角数枝梅,凌寒独自开。遥知不是雪,为有暗香来。 

Plum Blossom Shape and Pattern Silver Liquid Container "Yu" of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279)

Plum Blossom Shape and Pattern Silver Liquid Container "Yu" of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

February Flower

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.

February Flower Apricot Blossoms in Forbidden City

February Flower Apricot Blossoms in Forbidden City, Photo from Official Site of Palace Museum.

Chinese Flower Goddess of the February Flower Apricot Blossom

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):

 

道白非真白,言红不若红。请君红白外,别眼看天工。

Apricot Blossoms Painted by Artist Yun Shouping (1633 — 1690)

Apricot Blossoms Painted by Artist Yun Shouping (1633 — 1690) — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

March Flower

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.

In ancient mythology, the goddess Xiwangmu has peach tree forests around her palace on Mount Kunlun.

 

When King Mu of Zhou and Emperor Wu of Han visited her, she awarded them peaches from these magic trees.

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)

March Flower Peach Blossom in Painting of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 — 1279) — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Chinese Flower Goddess of the March Flower Peach Blossom

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):

 

桃之夭夭,灼灼其华。之子于归,宜其室家

Peach Blossom Forest in Linzhi of Tibet

Peach Blossom Forest in Linzhi of Tibet

April Flower

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. 

April Flower Peony and Auspicious Phoenix Patterns on Traditional Clothes of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912)

April Flower Peony and Auspicious Phoenix Patterns on Traditional Clothes of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Chinese Flower Goddess of the April Flower Peony

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。

Peony Flowers in Forbidden City

Peony Flowers in Forbidden City, Photo from Official Site of Palace Museum.

May Flower

May Flower Pomegranate Blossom — Flower of Happy Marriage, Maturity, and Wealthy

Pomegranate, the Flower of May, was introduced to the Han Dynasty by Zhang Qian (about 164 BC — 114 BC) through Silk Road and was firstly cultivated in the royal gardens. 

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

Pomegranate Flower Dresses or Shiliu Qun in Painting "Zanhua Shinv Tu", By Artist Zhou Fang of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Liaoning Museum

Chinese Flower Goddess of the May Flower Pomegranate Blossom

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):

 

五月榴花照眼明,枝间时见子初成。

May Flower Pomegranate Blossom

May Flower Pomegranate Blossom, Photo by Dongmaiying.

June Flower

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)

Lotus Shaped Secret Color Porcelain Bowl of the Five Dynasties (907 — 960) — Suzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Chinese Flower Goddess of the June Flower Lotus

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. 

Besides, the lotus is also the flower of Taoism and Buddhism. The Taoism Lotus Crown was once a popular hair ornament in the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907).  

Poem about Lotus by Li Bai (701 — 762): 竹色溪下绿,荷花镜里香。

June Flower Lotus in Front of Furong Xie in Humble Administrator’s Garden​

June Flower Lotus in Front of Furong Xie in Humble Administrator’s Garden, Photo from Official Site of Zhuozheng Garden.

July Flower

July Flower Balsamine — The Incarnation of Phenix and the Flower of Energy

Balsamine, the Flower of July, is believed as the incarnation of Phoenix, one of the most beautiful and powerful mythical animals in Chinese Mythology

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): 

香红嫩绿正开时,冷蝶饥蜂两不知。此际最宜何处看,朝阳初上碧梧枝。

July Flower Balsamine

July Flower Balsamine

Chinese Flower Goddess of the July Flower Balsamine Blossom
August Flower

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 Chinese mythology, there is a huge Osmanthus tree on the moon, where lives the Fairy Chang E and her bunny Yutu. 

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.

Chinese Flower Goddess of the August Flower Osmanthus Blossom
August Flower Osmanthus Blossom and the Moon

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): 

亭亭岩下桂,岁晚独芬芳。叶密千层绿,花开万点黄。

Osmanthus Cakes or Guihua Gao

Osmanthus Cakes or Guihua Gao, Picture from lcmtxz.

September Flower

September Flower Chrysanthemum — Flower of Longevity, Auspiciousness, and Decency

Chrysanthemum, the Flower of September, blooms around the Double Ninth Festival (9th of September in Traditional Chinese Calendar), a holiday to climb mountains and respect the elders. 

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 September Flower Chrysanthemum in Potted Landscape of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912)

Handcrafted Chrysanthemum in Potted Landscape of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Chinese Flower Goddess of the September Flower Chrysanthemum Blossom

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 Chrysanthemum

September Flower Chrysanthemums

October Flower

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):

木末芙蓉花,山中发红萼。

October Flower Hibiscus

October Flower Hibiscus

Chinese Flower Goddess of the October Flower Hibiscus Blossom
November Flower

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):

东园三月雨兼风,桃李飘零扫地空。唯有山茶偏耐久,绿丛又放数枝红。

Camellias and Silver Pheasants (Shancha Baixian Tuzhou), by Artist Chen Zun of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644)

Camellias and Silver Pheasants (Shancha Baixian Tuzhou), by Artist Chen Zun of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644) — Palace Museum

Chinese Flower Goddess of the November Flower Camellia
December Flower

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

December Flower Narcissus

Chinese Flower Goddess of the 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):

 

韵绝香仍绝,花清月未清。天仙不行地,且借水为名。

Narcissus Pattern Carved Lacquerware Plate of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368)

Narcissus Pattern Carved Lacquerware Plate of the Yuan Dynasty (1271 — 1368) — Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Pictures of the 12 Flower Goddesses are Painted by Tan Qifen and Luo Lan.