Blooming orchids enrich Guo Pavilion as horticulturists put up a floral show

Wu Huixin
The Hangzhou Citizen Orchid Exhibition and Festival is in full swing at the Guo Pavilion at the West Lake, with 200 varieties of orchids displayed in 400 pots.
Wu Huixin

The Hangzhou Citizen Orchid Exhibition and Festival, an annual floral extravaganza in the Yangtze Delta, is in full swing at the West Lake's Guo Pavilion.

This year, the West Lake Scenic Area's management committee is co-hosting the event with the Shanghai Botanical Garden, the Suzhou Humble Administrator's Garden and the Canglang Pavilion. There are 200 varieties of orchids in 400 pots.

Guo Pavilion has long been a destination for orchid enthusiasts, as the annual orchid exhibition is considered the "Olympics of horticulture," with rare species and bonsais on display.

The exhibition is also seen as an occasion for horticulturists from the Yangtze Delta region to share the most recent cultivation results and new ideas in the field of horticulture.

Orchid viewing during springtime has been a tradition in the city. This year, visitors will get to see rare varieties that have been cultivated since the 1920s.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Wang Keming cultivated a new variety and named it Wangzi(汪字) after his surname. Since then, Wangzi has been dubbed one of the "top four orchids," along with Songmei, Jiyuan and Longzi.

Some new varieties discovered in the 2000s have red bud hulls, green petals and white labellum. Orchids are distinguished from other plants by their bilateral symmetry, resupinate petals and labellum.

Blooming orchids enrich Guo Pavilion as horticulturists put up a floral show
Ti Gong

A pot of Yulinmei, one of the orchid varieties that have been cultivated since the 1920s.

Some orchids blossom in winter, when most flowers wither. Chinese people have dubbed them "four gentlemen" along with the chrysanthemum, plum blossom and bamboo.

Ancient scholars eulogized its refined beauty in literature and ink-wash paintings. At the exhibition, organizers have arranged Song Dynasty (960-1279) paintings to match orchid bonsais.

During that time, painting orchids was a way for scholars to express their noble aspirations and admiration for high-minded ideas. Orchid-related culture was at its peak, with literati writing prose and poetry adoring the bloom.

Aside from the orchids, the Guo Pavilion is ablaze with thriving plum blooms.

Though not as grand as the royal gardens, the Guo Pavilion is elegantly designed with plum flowers and camellias. The stones, rock formations and historic dwellings blend in with the horticultural patterns.

According to historical records, people in Zhejiang have been cultivating plum trees for millennia, and the province has been the center of plum blossom production throughout the dynasties.

Plum blossom imagery and themes evolved over time, eventually occupying an important position in Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) literature and art, with Hangzhou as its capital.

Blooming orchids enrich Guo Pavilion as horticulturists put up a floral show
Ti Gong

Known as the "Olympics of horticulture," the annual orchid exhibition at the Guo Pavilion has about 400 pots of orchids on display, accompanied by some Song Dynasty paintings to create an artistic ambiance.

The Song people's enthusiasm for plum flowers manifested in three ways: through natural imagery, divine aspects and personal symbolism.

They revealed the beauty of the flowers' moral character through their forms and habits, which, in turn, emphasized the flower's symbolic meaning as a harbinger of spring that blooms in the snow before many other blossoms appear.

Also, camellias, or tea flowers, are blooming in the pavilion. Their flowers are large and conspicuous, varying in color from pink to red.

Relatively unknown outside China, people in southern China use cooking oil made of the nuts from tea trees. Tea oil has a higher calorific content than any other edible oil available naturally in the country.

However, in horticulture, tea flowers are selectively bred to produce more flowers than nuts. The flowers are prized for their glossy green foliage and fragrant petals that bloom early in the spring.

Guo Pavilion has beautiful views that mesh natural landscape with historical architecture. It will be free for the public by March 31.

Exhibition info

Date: Through February 12, 8am-5pm
Venue: Guo Pavilion, West Lake
Address: 28 Yanggong Causeway


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