Stop and smell the flowers at orchid festival

Wu Huixin
Hangzhou's 12th Spring Orchid Festival is underway at West Lake's Guo Pavilion, with nearly 300 orchid pots on display until March 3.
Wu Huixin

The 12th Spring Orchid Festival, Hangzhou's annual floral extravaganza, is in full swing at the Guo Pavilion on the West Lake. About 300 pots of orchids grown by 40 organizations are on display until March 3.

The city has a tradition of admiring orchids in the springtime. There are rare varieties on display that have been cultivated in Zhejiang Province.

This year, a traditional variety called Longzi, which is named after the Chinese character 龙 (loong), is on show. Longzi was discovered in Yuyao County, eastern Zhejiang Province, during the Jiaqing Period of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911). The bud hulls and petals are yellowish green, and the labellum is white with rose spots.

According to Qing Dynasty horticulturist Xu Jilou, Longzi was the best Chinese orchid at the time due to its large blossoms and easy, prolific and quick growth.

Stop and smell the flowers at orchid festival
Ti Gong

The Spring Orchid Festival at the Guo Pavilion exhibits nearly 300 pots of orchids cultivated by 40 organizations from the Yangtze River Delta region.

This year, the West Lake scenic area's management committee will co-host the event with Shanghai and Suzhou. The expo provides an opportunity for horticulturists from the Yangtze River Delta region to share their most recent products and innovative ideas.

Visitors to the festival can also observe the Chinese Dream variety, which was discovered in 2008 in Xinchang County, western Zhejiang Province, and successfully reproduced in 2019. It created a sensation in the horticulture community at the time. This particular variety earned the golden prize at the 3rd China Orchid Festival in February.

Many flowers have proved popular among people due to their brilliant hues and blooming blossoms, but orchids are the opposite – the plainer, the better.

Orchids stand out from other plants due to their bilateral symmetry, resupinate petals and labellum. Some flowers bloom during the winter, while most others wither. They are known as the "four gentlemen" in Chinese, alongside the chrysanthemum, plum blossom and bamboo.

Ancient thinkers revered its subtle beauty in literature and ink-wash paintings. Scholars painted orchids to express their noble aims and love for high-minded ideas.

Orchid-related culture peaked during the Song Dynasty (960–1279), with literati composing prose and poetry on the bloom. The Song people's enthusiasm for orchids was conveyed through nature imagery, supernatural attributes and personal symbolism.

They displayed the beauty of the flowers' moral character through their forms and habits, emphasizing the flower's symbolic importance as a springtime harbinger that blooms in the snow before many other blossoms arrive.

Stop and smell the flowers at orchid festival
Ti Gong

A pot of Longzi orchid in full bloom

In ancient times, pots were also prized while presenting orchid bonsai. Visitors to the exhibition can see pots manufactured by Qing Dynasty master Yang Pengnian and contemporary artists Shi Xiaoma, Zhang Zhengzhong and Yuan Xiaoqiang.

Traditionally, orchids are grown in zisha (purple clay) pots. Zisha originated in present-day Yixing, Jiangsu Province. Orchids require air permeability to grow. Due to its exceptional breathability in comparison to other ceramics, zisha pots have been esteemed as the ideal vessel.

The zisha pots, which combine aesthetic and useful elements, are renowned not only for their exceptional porous qualities but also as works of art.

Its design and technique were significantly enhanced during the Qing Dynasty with the arrival of preeminent craftspeople. Yang was one of the top-notch artists.

The annual orchid exhibition, known as the "Olympics of orchids," features rare species and bonsai on display every early spring. Thus, the Guo Pavilion has long been a popular location for orchid enthusiasts.

Aside from the orchids, the Guo Pavilion is brimming with other vibrant blossoms. Though not as large as the royal gardens, the Guo Pavilion is tastefully decorated with plum blossoms and camellias.

The flowers they bear are large and conspicuous, displaying a spectrum of colors from pink to crimson. The stones, rock formations and historical edifices blend harmoniously with the botanical designs.

If you go

Date: Through March 3

Ticket: 10 yuan (US$1.38) per person

Address: 28 Yanggong Causeway


Special Reports