Chrysanthemum, the flower of hermits

With a growing history of more than 3,000 years, the chrysanthemum was first cultivated in China as a flowering plant as early as 15th Century B.C. Being a special local product of China, it usually blossoms out around the Double Ninth Festival (ninth day of the ninth lunar month). The flower has long been a favorite with the Chinese people: not only for its elegant looking that adds color to the fall scenery, but also for its strong character of blooming in the cold days of late autumn and early winter. 

The earliest illustrations of chrysanthemum show them as small, yellow daisy-like flowers. It was until the Jin dynasty (265 – 420 A.D.) that white mums were first cultivated by Tao Yuanming (365 – 427 A.D.), a famous poet with a deep attention for the flower. The number of varieties grew rapidly since Song (960 – 1279 A.D.) dynasty, more than 900 varieties are listed in Li Shizhen’s (1518–1593, one of the greatest physicians and pharmacologists in Chinese history) famous medical work Compendium of Materia Medica. Today more than 3,000 varieties are blooming in China, many of them could not be recognized by ancient growers.

Known as the “Autumn Flower”, the chrysanthemum is praised by the romantic Chinese scholars as one of the four “honorable plants” for its ideal personality of flourishing in the cold late autumn days when all other flowers were fading away. Together with plum, orchid and bamboo, chrysanthemum is taken as a symbol of nobility and elegance. In most ancient essays and poems, writers use the terms "jade bone, icy body, pearl petal and red heart" to describe the flower.

Among the great admirers of the chrysanthemum was Tao Yuanming, a great poet in the Eastern Jin dynasty (317 – 420 A.D.), who has left us numerous poems dealing specifically with this flower. Symbolically called“the flower of hermits”, the chrysanthemum was well suited to Tao’s philosophy of a simply, modest life in the countryside. "Pick a chrysanthemum near a fence and enjoy the mountain in the south at your leisure." This is the most famous poem about the chrysanthemum, which was written after he resigned from his high official post returned to the countryside. Disappointed by the political situation of the capital, Tao finally decided to give up his ideas of civil service and returned to nature.

Another reason for the flower's popularity among the Chinese people is the medical value when they were used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Ancient Chinese believed that chrysanthemum were the combination of gi (energy) of heaven and earth. That’s why it can flourish in the chillness of late autumn days, when all other plants withered away. Chrysanthemum as a herb help people embrace the essence of the heaven and earth, and therefore extend life. According to TCM, Chrysanthemum is applied to reducing fever, growing liver, brightening eyes, detoxification detumescence and etc.