Plum Blossom: the Chinese Cold Beauty

Plum blossom, one of China's top-10 flowers, enjoys a fond reputation among the Chinese people for its quiet coloring, simple but elegant pattern and its light fragrance. The blossom, with pine and bamboo, is one of the "three friends in cold winter". Each year local people by tradition go to view plum blossoms in early spring.

Plum blossom is a deciduous small arbor. The crown of a tree is round-headed. The trunk is purple brown with vertical stripe. The branch is green and often stingy. The leaf is alternate and ovoid with thin indention at the edge. The aromatic flowers are fasciate, usually one, two or three together, in pink, red, yellow and white, etc. The flowers can last from the end of winter to the beginning of spring. 

The Chinese have always been great lovers of flowers and trees. All flowers are used as motifs in Chinese art. Of special importance are the “Flowers of the Four Seasons”, including Winter Plum Blossom, Spring Peony, Summer Lotus and Autumn Chrysanthemum. It’s not only the appearance or the fragrance that the Chinese admire. Plants represent aspect of character to them. As to the plum blossom, it is characterized by its unyielding spirit, since it never yields to the bitter cold and grows new flowers from seemingly dead branches in late winter when other flowers wither. Together with bamboo and pine tree, plum blossom is usually planted beside tombs of national heroes as a sign of unbendable loyalty to the country and people.

Since the tree blooms in late January/early February, coinciding with the Lunar New Year, admiring plum blossoms has been become a custom for the Chinese New Year celebration. A Chinese artist writes,” “Plum blossom does not crowd the spring time with all the other flowers to catch people’s attention but enjoys its own efflorescence lonely in the winter.” There were many poems and paintings of old time took it as a symbol of pride, noble self-esteem, and perseverance for that cause.