Flower Facts

Language of Flowers: Plant Symbolism in Asia

Six plants displayed around a fireplace and on tables

Do you want to gift a plant but are unsure which one to select? If you’re looking to give the gift of green to a friend, family member, colleague, or another person in your life, there are several ways to go about picking the right potted pal for the occasion. You choose one of the many plants that improve air quality in homes. Some plants work great to remove airborne pollutants. Another popular way to choose a plant gift is by symbolism.

Plant symbolism makes a great way to choose the perfect gift for a loved one. Because let’s face it, it’s not always the best idea to send red roses to someone you’re exclusively “just friends” with. Likewise, a festive mix of blooms and greens for occasions that are a bit more somber and serious. So knowing plant symbolism can come in extremely useful to select a

Especially if you find yourself interacting with someone who might have been raised with a different cultural upbringing, you don’t want to give off the wrong message when it comes to gifting plants and flowers. That’s why we’re here to give you the breakdown of plant symbolism in Asia to help you avoid any potentially awkward moments.

Without further ado, here’s what different plants mean for different countries in Asia:

China

Traditional Chinese gardens are often created considering symbolic meaning in addition to aesthetics. Meaning can be derived from the classic “three religions” of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhist and cultural lore.

In China, every branch and leaf gets counted to see if it maintains the “irregularities” of life; this is why odd numbers are preferred when it comes to the quantity of a plant because they convey the spontaneity and odd force in our everyday lives! Odd numbers for plant displays are also considered more aesthetically pleasing and create more interest.

With that said, bamboos are a popular choice when it comes to plant gifting because they symbolize youth, strength, endurance, and longevity. Ginkgo trees are also popular in Chinese culture since they represent peace, hope, and endurance. In fact, in ancient China, many artists depicted the Buddha’s Dragon Tree as a ginkgo tree. There are many famous ginkgo trees in China including one in Beijing’s Tanze Temple that is about a thousand years old and was planted during the Liao dynasty.

Tree Symbolism in China

Many trees also hold symbolic importance in China. Pine trees represent longevity and have been depicted in paintings for thousands of years. A good traditional pairing for the pine tree is the cypress praised by both Confucius and the famous poet Li Bai who called the two trees “strong and independent”. For those who want to convey a message of strength, a willow branch makes a great choice. It represents the ability to bend or adapt but not break – go endurance!

Several fruit blossoms and trees also hold importance. The peach tree represents immortality and holds a sacred place in Taoist mythology. Peach fruit symbolizes long life and are considered a divine fruit. The wood from peach trees was said to protect against evil and ancient warriors would craft weapons such as staff from peach wood. And some Taoists believed peach petals could be used to induce love trances.

Plum blossoms are also important. Because the plum tree will bloom towards the end of winter, even after a cold and severe winter, the plum blossom represents resilience and perseverance against all odds. Plum trees live long lives so many ancient plum trees exist in China. Plum trees also represent noble virtues from the I Ching, or Book of Changes: originating, penetrating, firm, and advantageous.

India

India also has a rich tradition of plant, tree, and flower symbolism. If you’re considering a gift for someone from the subcontinent, go the extra mile and think about how you might incorporate some symbolism.

In India, plants are heavily represented in different religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Jainism. Sandalwood is considered the epitome of excellence, which is why people burn pieces of the wood to purify holy places. You’ll find these branches commonly featured in religious ceremonies due to their significance!

Tree Symbolism in India

Banyan trees (ficus benghalensis) are fascinating trees that thrive in the tropical regions of India and surrounding areas. Banyan trees are heavily associated with the god Krishna and most shrines and temples dedicated to Krishna incorporate banyan trees. Many varieties of potted ficus make popular and durable gifts. Just make sure you research when they can be kept indoors.

Ashoka trees are another popular and sacred tree. In Sanskrit, the word ashoka means “without grief” while other names for the tree include one that means the tree of love blossoms. In Hinduism, the tree is associated with the God of Love, Kama Deva. The perfumed, attractive flowers are often used to decorate temples.

Another symbol of love is the mango tree. The mango fruit symbolizes fertility as well as love and purity. Mango leaves are hung on many occasions to attract good fortune. Mango leaves and fruit are utilized in many religious ceremonies.

Tulsi is another purifying gem, especially when it comes to dispelling any negative energy coming from others. Yogis often wear tulsi beads in honor of purifying their hearts and souls. Tulsi is also popular to plant in gardens and offers medicinal benefits.

Banana plants hold sacred value as well. Sometimes called banana trees, bananas are technically not a tree but a flowering plant. Their huge leaves are considered auspicious and often hung around ceremonies or other celebratory occasions. Banana plants are considered auspicious for families.

Japan

Hanakotoba is Japan’s very own language of flowers. Certain plants are given codes or “passwords” to deliver specific messages. This is what makes flower-gifting a popular exchange in Japan!

Just like the U.S., a four-leaf clover symbolizes luck, and giving it to someone else wishes them good fortune. On the other hand, singles can rejoice because there’s a plant for them as well! Mistletoe or holly means that one is searching for a partner, giving off the message that they’re single and ready to mingle.

Sacred Plant of Japan

As in many cultures around the world, religions in Japan imbue symbolism into plants. The Sakaki is the sacred plant in the Shinto religion. A broadleaf evergreen shrub, the Sakaki goes by the botanical name cleyera japonica. These plants usually grow about 8-10 feet tall, although some specimens may reach 30 feet. Sakaki produces small, fragrant blooms as well as small red berries. However, it’s the wood itself that’s been used in the Shinto religion, either to make wands with streamers for rituals or the branches themselves were used for ceremonies and purification rites. Many Shinto shrines have Sakaki growing nearby.

The Tachibana orange is a variety of mandarin orange. Its fruit though tastes bitter and is virtually inedible. The fruit was said to be derived from the land of immortality. It’s traditionally placed on top of rice cake for New Years’ celebrations. But perhaps the most famous use is the Tachibana pattern for kimonos. The Tachibana orange design has long been considered auspicious and originated during the Heian Period (794-1185).

South Korea

In Korea, there are the “Four Noble Plants,” which are the Japanese apricot tree, the orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo. The apricot tree symbolizes purity, integrity, and longevity. It’s best known for its ability to survive during winter, which people traditionally associated with those of the upper social class.

The bamboo represents elegance and the ability to expel ghosts and bad luck. This is because a bamboo plant never changes color throughout the year regardless of the season, and this characteristic represents the elegant class of men who show signs of virtue and fidelity.

Outside of the Four Noble Plants, you can consider plants such as the zinnia. Zinnias make a great choice if you’re looking for a gift for a friend. Their meaning can shift depending on their color too so you can really tailor your gift to send the perfect message. Magenta signifies long-lasting affection, scarlet zinnia symbolizes consistency and yellow zinnia represents good memories.

Korea’s National Flower

The mugunghwa is South Korea’s national flower and has a long tradition as an important blossom dating back roughly 2000 years. The mugunghwa can regrow even under the harshest conditions and even if damaged. Due to this quality, it symbolizes hardiness, resilience, and triumph. It’s been considered a divine bloom and the name itself means “eternal blossom that never fades.” The mugunghwa is also called the “rose of Sharon” and is related to the hibiscus.

Plants Make Great Gifts

Wherever you are in the world, plants make a great gift for those who want to send along some sort of message. Whether you’re planting a tree to grow over time or gifting a potted plant, you can encourage someone to power through hard times or commend someone for their accomplishments. Just remember, there’s always a plant for the occasion!

The Bouqs is all for being there with you every step of the way when it comes to spreading some positivity. Our sustainable blooms and greens are sure to help you express your sincerity. So don’t wait to impress – shop our flower arrangements today!

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