Born and raised in Malaysia, Mazlan is proud of his Malaysian and Asian heritage. He likes to write about its culture and current issues.
Chinese Symbols and Meanings
Chinese New Year is that time of the year to usher in good fortune and prosperity. It is also the time to observe ancient traditions and avoid taboos. These may seem weird to some of us, but there are several Chinese symbols and meanings that may be useful to know.
For example, yellow and white chrysanthemums are not allowed in the house. It is associated with funerals and mournings. Pear, another bad symbol, is associated with separation and divorce.
Chinese Symbol of Prosperity
For luck and prosperity, wear or display anything red. It is auspicious, and it scares away evil spirits and bad fortune.
If you want to bring happiness and prosperity to homes and offices, tangerines and oranges are recommended.
Another Chinese symbol of prosperity is animal figurines such as dragon-tortoise, Arowana fish, Phoenix, etc.
The animals depicted in the Chinese zodiac, such as ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, etc., are also good animal figurines to display.
Chinese New Year Traditions
These Chinese symbols and meanings are important to remember for an auspicious celebration and to bring luck the whole year. As you know, Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.
In this article, we will explore other Chinese symbols of prosperity; flowers but not just any flowers.
Why Are Flowers a Good Chinese New Year Symbol?
Flowers represent new growth after the long winter, and when they bloom, it signifies life and good fortune. They will also lead to fruits, which is another symbol associated with fortune.
If there are no flowers during Chinese New Year, it is not auspicious. Hence, the importance of having floral decorations as part of your celebration.
There are many flowers associated with this festival. The plum blossom and water narcissus are the most popular flowers for symbols of prosperity.
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 changes annually with new implications. To enjoy its beneficial energies and changes in the zodiac direction, you must adjust your lifestyle, house, and office layout.
It can be expensive to make changes or to 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, you can make do with small adjustments and adorn your house with auspicious items such as flowers instead.
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Meanings for Plum Blossoms
Plum Blossoms are winter flowers, and they bloom during the late winter and early spring from a tree branch that looks lifeless.
Emerging from its bark are the gorgeous blooms that are bound to amaze you with their beauty and color. The fragrance will surround the air, and in that cold winter, you get to enjoy their delicate scent and colorful blooms. To the Chinese, these symbolize courage, hope, beauty, purity, and prosperity.
Now you know why plum blossom is an important Chinese symbol and its significance during the Chinese New Year.
Cut plum blossom sprays will be placed in homes and offices for their beauty and a fruitful and good year. It is also depicted in Chinese paintings, poetry, and classical Chinese dance.
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 China and is now commonly found in temperate Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, the USA, Europe, and Australia.
The flowers are in various shades of pink, yellow, white, and red. However, pink and red flowers are commonly used for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
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 in 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:
- Five numbers of petals
- Come in many shades of colors
Irrespective of the differences, both flowers are equally beautiful and a joy to watch.
Water narcissus, also known as daffodil, is a Chinese symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and good luck. If a water narcissus blossoms exactly on Chinese New Year's day, it brings prosperity and good fortune the whole year. The flower has a sweet fragrance, another good reason to have them around.
Hence, water narcissus will be displayed as part of the Chinese New Year decorations in homes and offices. Of course, they all anticipate a beautiful bloom on the first day of the New Year.
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. It is an art that has now become popular outside of China.
The masters of narcissus carving will cut the onion-like bulb so that the leaves and flowers curled instead of growing straight.
How to Do Narcissus Carving
If you want to try this ancient Chinese art of narcissus carving, these are the simple steps to follow:
- Cut narcissus bulb about half an inch deep (from about half an inch above the root)
- Remove the scales from the line cut until you see leaves inside the bulb
- To get to the flower bud, use a special blade or carving knife to cut open the scale until you see the bud
- Be very careful not to damage these leaves and flower buds
- Trim these scales on both sides until it is half out
- If you opt to remove the scale from the top half (above the cut line), keep the lower half in the scale (or vice versa)
- If you want a curving leaf, cut not more than half of the leaves
- If you want a curving stem, do a small tiny scratch on the stem
- Then soak the 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 see your labor of love in about a month, but in warmer weather, it blooms earlier.
Other Good Chinese New Year Flowers
If you live in tropical countries like Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia, decorating your homes and offices with fresh plum blossoms or water narcissus is expensive as these are temperate flowers.
So, some people use artificial versions instead!
Other flowers grow well in tropical countries that are also auspicious for the Chinese New Year. These are sunflowers, pussy willows, and azalea.
Chinese Symbols and Meanings
The significance and meanings associated with these tropical flowers are:
- Sunflower is associated with 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 tropical countries)
Chinese New Year Flower Arrangements
It is important to know 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!
© 2013 Mazlan A
Mazlan A (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 A (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 A (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 A (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 A (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 A (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 A (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 A (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 A (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.
sarahshuihan 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!