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The Popularity of Orchids within Chinese Culture

The Popularity of Orchids within Chinese Culture

posted: 2021-02-01 17:00:00 +0800

Orchids were first cultivated in China over 3000 years ago and have since come to have a long and endearing relationship with Chinese culture. Orchids have been the muse of many artists with orchids being mentioned in Chinese literature as early as the 6th century, with even Confucius paying homage to them,

“The orchid grows where others cannot enduring the hardships of hunger and thirst, and is loosely tied to the things that support it. And, even with all the difficulty of its life, the orchid graces the world with beautiful colour and rare fragrance.”

Orchids also have a long tradition within Chinese medicine and are still used today in about 300 different varieties of Chinese medicine treating everything from lung conditions to arthritis. In fact, a quarter of all wild Chinese orchid species are used in either traditional medicine or food supplements.

Orchids are the largest family of flowering plants with more 25,000 documented orchid species worldwide and accounting for around 6-11% of all flowering plants. Orchids are immensely diverse plants that grow on nearly every continent. It has also been estimated that orchids have been growing on Earth as far back as 76 to 84 million years ago.

For the Chinese, the orchid has come to embody elegance and luxury and symbolise beauty, fertility, abundance, virtue, or the love shared between a married couple. As a result, the orchid is often associated with gifts and celebrations that embody this symbolism.

CNY Orchids

During Chinese New Year, flower markets are full to the brim with yellow, pink, and purple orchid varieties. The colours of red and yellow are especially important during Chinese New Year as they’re considered auspicious. The orchids are an essential part of a Chinese florist’s income during this time as people look to fill their homes and businesses with the auspicious and gorgeous flower. Orchids themselves can be quite expensive, depending on the variety, hybrid, and size, as they can take up to eight years to bloom from seed or if they’re divided up to a year to come into full and appreciative bloom. In fact, the most expensive flower ever sold, is the Shenzhen Nongke Orchid that was sold for $200,000 at auction in 2005. Thankfully, if taken care of appropriately, orchids are known for their long life with many varieties able to live for decades, though they go through bloom cycles and tend only to bloom between 60-120 days a year.

For Chinese weddings, like all Chinese occasions, flowers are not merely just for decoration. Orchids are chosen for their symbolism and vibrant colours and fragrance and often appear in flower bridal bouquets and wedding décor. Rich shades of red, pink, purple, green are usually chosen for a traditional Chinese wedding versus the white shades of many western weddings as white is often associated with funerals. However, many modern weddings often blend both western and Chinese traditions.