Tra­di­tion of buy­ing plants ahead of Spring Fes­ti­val gets a boost from ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards

China Daily - - HOLIDAY | TREND - By LI WENFANG in Guangzhou li­wen­fang@chi­

Xiao Ait­ing, a doc­tor in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, buys a pot­ted kumquat tree and flow­ers such as rhodo­den­drons, chrysan­the­mums, nar­cissi and or­chids be­fore Spring Fes­ti­val every year to cre­ate a fes­tive flo­ral cor­ner in her home.

The word for kumquat in Can­tonese sounds like the word for luck and Xiao sticks a red en­ve­lope on the pot of the tree to wish for abun­dant luck in the com­ing year.

She spends 400 yuan to 600 yuan ($63-95) on her flo­ral dec­o­ra­tions, de­pend­ing on the price of flow­ers each year.

To Lu Shao­qin, 25, who works in an in­ter­net com­pany in Guangzhou, shop­ping for flow­ers in a nearby flower mar­ket has been an im­por­tant fam­ily tra­di­tion since her child­hood, with­out which Lu­nar New Year cel­e­bra­tions would be in­com­plete.

A kumquat tree and chrysan­the­mums, which also sym­bol­ize luck; Pachira macro­carpa, also known as the money tree; Dra­caena sande­ri­ana, or lucky bam­boo; and Solanum mam­mo­sum, which is called five gen­er­a­tions liv­ing un­der the same roof, are the blooms fa­vored by Lu’s fam­ily.

A mini peach blos­som tree, sig­ni­fy­ing good luck in re­la­tions with the op­po­site sex, is also a must.

Other flow­ers pop­u­lar at Lu­nar New Year in the city are cockscomb, dahlia, glad­i­o­lus and lily.

Ruan Lin, dean of the Guangzhou In­sti­tute of Forestry and Land­scape Ar­chi­tec­ture, said most fam­i­lies in Guangzhou, buy flow­ers for Spring Fes­ti­val.

The love of flow­ers by the peo­ple of Guangzhou, which is known as the “City of Flow­ers”, was recorded in an­cient writ­ings as early as in the Western Han Dy­nasty (206 BC-AD 24).

Su Lisi, chair­woman of the Guang­dong Flo­ral Cul­ture Club of the World Flower Coun­cil, said there is no of­fi­cial def­i­ni­tion of the mean­ings of fes­ti­val flow­ers, but rather cus­tom­ary un­der­stand­ing of lo­cal peo­ple.

All flow­ers are beau­ti­ful and of­fer hope for the fu­ture. But, pos­i­tive con­no­ta­tions are sought dur­ing Spring Fes­ti­val and so some flow­ers have be­come pop­u­lar, Su said.

Peach blos­som is a fa­vorite of Su’s fam­ily be­cause it means love and pros­per­ity. This is also why busi­ness­peo­ple pre­fer the flower, she said.

The tra­di­tion of shop­ping in the city’s flower mar­kets is due to its warm weather and great se­lec­tion of flow­ers avail­able, Su said.

Ye Chun­sheng, a re­tired pro­fes­sor from the Sun Yat-sen Univer­sity and a folk cul­ture ex­pert, said Guangzhou’s flower trade can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the Five Dy­nas­ties and Ten King­doms (907-960), when farm­ers sold flow­ers in what is now Zhuang­tou vil­lage in Haizhu dis­trict to the south of the Pearl River.

Flower mar­kets as­sumed their cur­rent form grad­u­ally be­tween the 1860s and 1920s when vis­it­ing them be­came a Lu­nar New Year cus­tom in the provin­cial cap­i­tal, with bam­boo frames built to dis­play and sell flow­ers as well as arts and crafts in des­ig­nated streets closed tem­po­rar­ily in the few days be­fore Spring Fes­ti­val, he said.

Abraham Morse, a doc­tor from the United States work­ing at Guangzhou Women and Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter, vis­ited the flower mar­ket in Li­wan dis­trict with his wife last year.

“It was busy and crowded with lots of ac­tiv­ity and peo­ple of all ages. There was def­i­nitely a fes­tive at­mos­phere. The en­tire wide av­enue was closed off for a dis­tance of about 1 kilo­me­ter.

“In the mid­dle of the av­enue were stalls mainly sell­ing plants, flow­ers, pots, and other arts and crafts. Also some snack foods. The stores along the side­walks of the street were also busy,” Morse said.

The cou­ple bought flow­ers, pot­ted plants and dec­o­ra­tive pots as well as snack foods.

“It is not hard to spend your money if you have a place to put what you can buy. We were pri­mar­ily buy­ing things to dec­o­rate the en­trance to our apart­ment and in our apart­ment as well as the bal­cony. A few things were for gifts,” Morse said.

“It would be a great place to visit to see many beau­ti­ful lo­cal prod­ucts and get some sense of the cul­ture of Chi­nese New Year.”

Ye’s fam­ily moved to Guangzhou when he was 16 and at that time jas­mine was widely avail­able in the flower mar­kets.

Over the past 40 years, the va­ri­eties of flow­ers on of­fer have in­creased vastly and so have the prices, with bal­loons and toys also oc­cu­py­ing the stalls now, Ye said.

“Folk cul­ture comes from life and de­vel­ops with life. The con­tent has changed but the mean­ing of bid­ding farewell to the old and ush­er­ing in the new by walk­ing in the flower mar­kets re­mains,” Ye said.

With higher liv­ing stan­dards, peo­ple now have more aes­thetic de­mands with many fam­i­lies now pur­su­ing artis­tic shapes and forms, Su said. “The flower mar­kets in Guangzhou will surely be­come larger in the fu­ture, be­cause liv­ing stan­dards are higher and peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions have risen, hence the in­creased spend­ing on fes­tive flow­ers,” Su said.

Of­fi­cial statis­tics in­di­cate the flower mar­kets in the 11 dis­tricts in Guangzhou drew 5.35 mil­lion vis­i­tors and gen­er­ated rev­enue of 120 mil­lion yuan last year.

The flower mar­kets mark­ing the com­ing Year of the Dog started on Feb 12 in Guangzhou, with New Year’s Eve fall­ing on Feb 15.

Sheng Wuhan con­trib­uted to this story.

The flower mar­kets in Guangzhou will surely be­come larger in the fu­ture, be­cause liv­ing stan­dards are higher and peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions have risen.”

Su Lisi, chair­woman of the Guang­dong Flo­ral Cul­ture Club of the World Flower Coun­cil


A flower grower at Da­tian vil­lage in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, waters roses on sale in her shop.


Guangzhou cit­i­zens pur­chase flow­ers at a mar­ket be­fore Spring Fes­ti­val.


Cus­tomers choose flow­ers at Guangzhou’s Xi­hulu Flower Mar­ket.

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