Born and raised in Malaysia, Mazlan is proud of his Malaysian and Asian heritage and likes to share its mysteries, culture & current issues.
Chinese Symbols and Meanings
Chinese New Year is the time of the year to usher in fortune and prosperity and to observe its ancient traditions and to avoid its taboos. There are several Chinese symbols and meanings to these old practices. Yellow and white chrysanthemums are not allowed in the house as it is associated with the funerals and mournings. Pear is another bad symbol as it is associated with separation and divorce.
Chinese Symbol of Prosperity
However, to wear or display anything red is auspicious as it scares away evil spirits and bad fortune.
To have tangerines and oranges in homes and offices are another good Chinese symbol of prosperity since they bring happiness and prosperity.
Animal figurines depicted in the Chinese zodiac and certain favorable flowers displayed as part of the home and office decors are also auspicious.
Chinese New Year Traditions
Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. So, these Chinese symbols and meanings are important to remember to ensure an auspicious celebration and to bring in luck the whole year.
For this article, we will explore another Chinese symbol of prosperity, the flowers but not just any flowers.
Flower a Chinese New Year Symbol
Flowers represent new growth after the long winter and when flowers start to bloom, it signifies life and good fortune. Flowers will also lead to fruits, which is another symbol associated with fortune.
If there are no flowers during Chinese New Year, it will not be auspicious. It is therefore important to have flowers as part of the decorations during Chinese New Year celebration
There are many flowers that are associated with this celebration. The plum blossom and water narcissus are two of the most popular flowers that are important Chinese New Year symbols of prosperity.
Chinese Symbols and Meanings for Plum Blossoms
Plum Blossoms are winter flowers and blooms in late winter and early spring from a tree branch that looks lifeless. Emerging from its bark is the gorgeous blooms to amaze us with its beauty and color. The fragrance will surround the air and in that cold winter, you get to enjoy the delicate scent and colorful blooms. To the Chinese, these symbolize courage, hope, beauty, purity, and prosperity.
Plum blossom is an important Chinese symbol and plays a significant role in the Chinese New Year celebration. Cut sprays of plum blossoms will be placed in homes and offices to represent beauty and hope for a fruitful and good year.
Because of its beauty and importance, plum blossom is depicted in Chinese paintings, poetry and in classical Chinese dance. It is also associated with the start of spring in China and Japan.
Trivial Info on Plum Blossoms
Plum blossom was declared the national flower for The Republic of China (Taiwan) on July 21, 1964, with the five petals representing the country's five branches of the government.
Plum Blossom Tree
The tree originated from southern part of China and is now commonly found in other parts of temperate Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and in other parts of the world like America, Europe, and Australia.
Plum blossoms come in various shades of pink, yellow, white and red but the pink and red flowers are commonly used for Chinese New Year celebration.
Plum Blossoms vs. Cherry Blossoms
Are there any differences between plum blossoms and cherry blossoms?
Yes, and some examples of these are:
- The Japanese called the plum blossom ume and cherry blossom sakura.
- Plum blossom will bloom late January up to February but Cherry blossom will bloom in April
- Plum blossom petals are round whilst cherry blossom petals are oval in shape
They do however have some similarities and these are:
- Five numbers of petals
- Comes in many varieties of colors
Both the plum and cherry blossoms are equally beautiful and a joy to watch during the bleak and cold winter and spring.
Feng Shui Element in Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is not just about culture and tradition. It signifies a change in the Feng Shui cycle. The animal year will change annually with new implications that take effect. To enjoy the beneficial energies and changes in the zodiac direction, you need to adjust your lifestyle, house, and office layout.
These can be expensive if you have to change and renovate with every Lunar New Year. For people with a strong belief in Feng Shui elements, the changes are mandatory. For the rest of us, made do with small adjustments and adorn your house with auspicious items such as flowers, instead.
Chinese Symbols and Meanings for Water Narcissus
Water narcissus, also known as the daffodil, is a Chinese symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and good luck. If the water narcissus blossoms exactly on the Chinese New Year day, it brings prosperity and good fortune the whole year.
So, you will find water narcissus plants as part of the Chinese New Year decorations in homes and offices, in anticipation of a beautiful bloom on Chinese New Year day. Water narcissus has a sweet fragrance, another good reason to have them around.
Water Narcissus Carving
The Chinese have developed a unique art of planting water narcissus that grows in different sizes and shapes. This narcissus carving has been around for more than one thousand years and is an art that has now become popular outside of China.
The masters of narcissus carving will cut the onion-like bulb in such a way for the leaves and flowers to curl instead of growing straight.
How to Do Narcissus Carving
If you are keen to try this ancient Chinese art of narcissus carving, these are the simple but delicate steps to follow:
- Cut the narcissus bulb about half an inch deep (from about half an inch above the root)
- Remove the scales from the line cut until you can see the leaves inside the bulb
- Use a special blade or carving knife to cut open the scale until you see the flower bud
- Be very careful not to damage these leaves and/or flower buds
- Trim these scales for both sides until it is half out
- If you opt to remove the scale from the top half (above the cut line) then keep the lower half in the scale (or vice versa)
- If you want a curving leaf, cut not more than half of the leave
- If you want a curving stem, do a small tiny scratch on the stem
- Then soak this bulb facing down in the water for five days. Change water daily
- Finally, get your desired bowl or vase and place this bulb with water at the same level as the roots. Place pebbles, rocks etc. around this bulb
Change water every 3-4 days and place it near a sunlit area. You will get to enjoy your labor of love in about a month but in warmer weather, it blooms earlier.
Note: If you want to learn more about the Chinese legend and folklore on the water narcissus, read this amazing book.
Other Flowers for Good Chinese New Year Symbols
If you live in tropical countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia, to decorate your homes and offices with fresh plum blossoms or water narcissus is expensive as they are temperate plants.
So, some people use artificial versions instead.
There are also other flowers that grow well in tropical countries that are auspicious for Chinese New Year. These are sunflowers, pussy willows, and azalea.
Chinese Symbols and Meanings
The significance and meanings associated with these flowers are:
- Sunflower is associated with having a good year
- Pussy Willow has multiple fluffy blossoms and is associated with bountiful fortune
- Red Azalea is associated with balance in life, harmony, and happiness
(Note: Although these flowers are temperate flowers, they do grow well in the tropical country. But they may not be as large as those grown in temperate countries.)
Chinese New Year Flower Arrangement
It is important to know of the Chinese symbols and meanings if you want to give an auspicious gift to Chinese friends when you visit them for Chinese New Year.
The easiest gift is to create a flower arrangement with these flowers. You can also add plum blossoms, pussy willows, azalea, and sunflowers - flowers that bring luck and good fortune all year round.
But why wait for the Lunar New Year to give these flowers or to have them in your homes or offices. Have them now to bring in the fortune!
How to Make Your Own Plum Blossom
© 2013 Mazlan
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on January 26, 2019:
Hi Yvonne, thank you. Wishing you a great Lunar New Year and best of luck in the flower arrangement :-)
Yvonne Teo from Singapore on January 25, 2019:
Great article. We are seeing a great deal of potted festive flowers and plants to welcome spring here too but have yet to try flower arrangement for the Chinese New Year
yy on April 13, 2017:
nguyenthuyvn on February 29, 2016:
Vietnamese Ao Dai
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on December 28, 2015:
Thank you Robert Sacchi. I am glad you like the article and thanks for dropping by. hHve a great holiday and Happy New Year to you.
Robert Sacchi on December 27, 2015:
Thank you. A very interesting article with some really good flower decoration ideas.
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on February 21, 2015:
Hi MJ Martin. Your comment came smack on Chinese New Year eve, probably a sure sign of hope and good fortune :)
Thanks for the visit and have lots of Plum Blossoms around your house this Chinese New Year month of Feb!
MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on February 16, 2015:
Plum and Cherry Blossoms are so beautiful. To me a sure sign spring will always continue to bring us hope and good fortune. Love your pictures. Interesting to know daffodils and willows are included. Many grow around here too.
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on February 14, 2015:
Hi aesta1. That was very kind of them. When you are away from home, small things like this matter during festive season. Thanks for sharing.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 13, 2015:
Celebrating New Year is not complete without Plum blossoms. Last year, to celebrate TET, the Vietnamese New Year, a Vietnamese friend gave us some for our hotel room. We were really touched.
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on December 01, 2014:
Hi Hannemarie. You are welcome and thanks for stopping by.
Hannemarie on November 30, 2014:
Thanks for the lovely pics and the vid! :)
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on February 05, 2014:
Thank you all for the visit, compliments and greetings. Plum blossoms are usually available during the CNY season in Chinatown and water narcissus is actually daffodil, which should be available in the UK.
Brenda Thornlow from New York on February 05, 2014:
Very interesting post and the pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on February 05, 2014:
What a beautiful hub greatstuff! I love flowers and to find out the traditions and beliefs surrounding them is fascinating. I don't know if we can get plum blossom or water narcissus in the UK, but I will see if I can find some.
Anna Sidorova from Russia on January 31, 2014:
Such a beautiful combination, indeed. Oh, and Happy Chinese Lunar (New) Year!!
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on January 30, 2014:
@avorodisa, Thank you for the compliments and the Share on Pinterest. Coincidentally, today is the new Chinese Lunar Year or Chinese New Year that welcomes the Year of Wooden Horse. Horse is usually associated with bearer of good things. Plum blossom is a symbol of courage and strong personality. A good combination for year 2014!
Anna Sidorova from Russia on January 29, 2014:
Excellent hub. Found it with the search tool on Hubpages. Strange enough, it didn't get featured. It's worthy of the best place on Hubpages. Great photos, very beautiful. The choice of the topic is really a win-win. Flowers are always an amazing topic to write about, especially when it comes to flower symbolism. Chinese New Year is an interesting subject, and so popular, also. You mentioned feng shui which is a great idea, too. Shared the amazing photos on Pinterest))) Good luck.
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on January 11, 2014:
Hi Anne, I’m glad the article was interesting for you and thanks for the compliments. Now is the Chinese New Year season, which will fall on 31st Jan 2014. The florists will be busy with flowers and fruits that are commonly associated with CNY, which are Plum Blossoms, Water Narcissus, Pussy Willows, Chrysanthemum, Oranges, and Tangerines etc. Thanks for dropping by.
Anne Harrison from Australia on January 09, 2014:
Such a beautiful article - and the photos are also amazing. Thank you
Mazlan (author) from Malaysia on January 19, 2013:
@sarahshuihan You are right. The rush for flowers, mandarin orange trees and other auspicious items for Chinese new Year is one of the coolest and fun things to do during the festive season.
@teaches12345 Thanks for the visit and the compliment. For Chinese New Year, flowers are more symbolic in the cultural and traditional sense and it is important that the right type of flowers are bought or given as gifts. I do this every year as my neighbor celebrate Chinese New Year and I think by now, I probably have given almost all the flowers that are considered auspicious!
Dianna Mendez on January 18, 2013:
The photos posted here show some beautiful flowers. I can't think of anything more expressive than flowers in welcoming in a New Year's celebration. Thank you for sharing the background on the flowers, how to cut and the celebration details.
Sarah from USA on January 16, 2013:
Great hub. One of the coolest things is being able to see these types of flowers at a traditional Chinese New Year's market. If you do this in China, be prepared for a lot of people!