Chrysanthemums bring Song culture to life
The Song Dynasty (960-1279) is divided into two distinct periods, the Northern and Southern. During the Northern Song (960-1127), the royal court built its capital in present-day Kaifeng City, Henan Province. It then retreated to the south of the Yangtze River and established the Southern Song (1127-1279), founding its capital in modern-day Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province.
Today, both cities have been considered the epitome of classical Song culture, as they feature a myriad of ancient heritage from that period. Now, a chrysanthemum festival is being held simultaneously in Kaifeng and Hangzhou, to popularize the Song Dynasty tradition of admiring chrysanthemum flowers.
Running through November 28, more than 7,000 pots of chrysanthemums are in full bloom at Hangzhou's Botanical Garden. The exhibition celebrates the long horticultural history of the chrysanthemum and encourages exchanges of expertise in cultivation and flower arranging.
The first section consists of flower arrangement based on the Song Dynasty approach. Some are decorated with Song Dynasty ink-wash paintings and calligraphy, in efforts to echo the theme.
The flower arrangements from that era often take on an atmosphere of silence rather than ornate floral designs. As ancient paintings and archives reflected, ancient Song people often used a branch and a chrysanthemum to evoke the subtle aesthetics of solitude.
Known as the favorite flower of November, ancient Chinese people eulogized chrysanthemum for its refined beauty in poems and ink-wash paintings. It has been dubbed one of the "four gentlemen" in Chinese art for a millennium, along with the orchid, plum blossom and bamboo.
Among the Song Dynasty scholars, burning incense, drinking tea, flower arranging and painting were popular pastimes.
Organizers have set up the traditional seven-string Chinese zithers to restore the classic scene where Song Dynasty literati admired chrysanthemums while playing the musical instrument.
Chrysanthemum is also one of the prettiest varieties of perennials that begin blooming in early autumn in Hangzhou.
The second section of the exhibition has often been crowded with visitors as the riverbank is flanked with about 1,200 pots of Xuanya chrysanthemums (悬崖菊), looking like small cascading waterfalls.
Other than common spider and pompom varieties, visitors can view around 1,000 pots of rare and irregular inwardly curved forms – involving a giant head in layers of ray florets that hang down to create a "skirt."