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Peonies in Art and Life
Chinese Peony PaintingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
The exquisite Chinese peony has inspired artists in both western and eastern cultures. Peonies are a traditional floral symbol in eastern art. Long before peonies were introduced to the western world, artists in both China and Japan used the peony motif in their art. In early Chinese art, it appears in paintings, on porcelain, as a design in embroidered clothing, screen-paintings and tapestries.
Paintings done today, in the Chinese style often utilize the peony design, along with birds and bamboo. It represents prosperity, or riches and honour, or love and affection. Paintings of peonies, along with lotus, chrysanthemum and plum blossoms represent the four seasons.
Peonies are mentioned in Chinese poetry and literature, and the ancient Chinese "Book of Odes" has youths and maidens exchanging peonies as love symbols. Single white peonies in art symbolize young virginal girls, while the life-giving color of the red peonies is more symbolic of erotic femaleness. Considered the queen of all flowers in ancient China, it represents distinction and wealth.
After peonies were introduced to Japan in the 8th century, Japanese artists and craftspeople employed peony images into their tapestries, paintings and porcelain tablewear. It appeared as a design in indigo resist-dyed fabrics for clothing, and again in embroidered silks of the traditional Japanese kimonos. Japanese poems use it as a theme, and it still exists as subject matter in today's literature.
Peonies and Feng Shui
Since peonies signify romance and amorous feelings, Feng Shui also uses peonies as attractors. Put a painting of peonies, or a vase of the peony flowers in the southwest corner of your bedroom to attract your ideal mate, or to spice up your love life and have a lucky marriage.
Modern Body Art
Today, we find the peony symbol used in many ways in body art, or tattoos. The eastern meanings are associated with the tattoos, and the peony motif is often paired with other design elements, such as dragons or lions, thus tempering the ferocity of the lion with the gentle love of the peony.
The peony is a flower whose history goes back thousands of years, and is one of the most venerated symbols in eastern art. Because of its beauty, it is just as popular today as it was then.
© 2009 Nicolette Goff