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Peonies in Art and Life

Updated on July 6, 2017

Chinese Peony Paintings

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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.

Red lacquer tray with peony images, Song dynasty
Red lacquer tray with peony images, Song dynasty

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.

Simple, yet most beautiful, this peony watercolor is from a Chinese artist.
Simple, yet most beautiful, this peony watercolor is from a Chinese artist.

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.

Body Tattoo, with peonies, created to cover scars!
Body Tattoo, with peonies, created to cover scars!

© 2009 Nicolette Goff


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Nice article!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Well, may be I will do the same to cover a scar (two scas exacly like yours) with a tatoo, but with another theme.

      This was a very good solution!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Greetings from Brasil!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Love the elegant and pure peonies pattern !

    • Dealdowns profile image


      10 years ago from Bedfordshire,England.

      What fantastic art. Love all forms of Japanese art and its culture.

    • Moulik Mistry profile image

      Moulik Mistry 

      10 years ago from Burdwan, West Bengal, India

      Beautiful photos, wonderful hub...

    • Nolimits Nana profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicolette Goff 

      10 years ago from British Columbia

      thanks, Mike and Craftsmith .

    • Craftsmith profile image


      10 years ago from India


    • profile image

      Mike Smith 

      10 years ago

      What an exquisite peony tattoo on left arm to represent the wealth, good fortune, and prosperity! It seems the whole garden is present with the peony tattoo. The presence of red in its different shades with green leaves and yellow petals, as a whole, just steals everyone’s gaze all at once.

    • Nolimits Nana profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicolette Goff 

      11 years ago from British Columbia

      Thanks for visiting, Alexis and Jill. I loved that watercolor too.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 

      11 years ago from Philippines

      I love the pink water color too. So simple yet so powerful! It really draws my attention.

      Beautiful hub!

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      11 years ago from NW Indiana

      The simple watercolor in pink is stunning. nice share. I have a dark red plant that I found growing here when we moved in. I hope to make it the center of interest in the front of this house, near the lamp post...someday. For now I have it tucked away for safe keeping. The flower is so deep and rich in color when it blooms that it looks fake....blooming now but rainy weather has taken a toll. Really enjoyed this informative read.

    • Nolimits Nana profile imageAUTHOR

      Nicolette Goff 

      11 years ago from British Columbia

      Tom, thanks for reading- I really like the tattoos!

      Ivoren, R. Graf, thanks for the comments. Peonies have always been one of my favorite flowers - so over-the-top! It was interesting to research their place in art.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      These are just beautiful. I didn't know any of this.

    • Ivorwen profile image


      11 years ago from Hither and Yonder

      I love Peonies!  Thanx.

    • Tom Cornett profile image

      Tom Cornett 

      11 years ago from Ohio

      Cool hub and beautiful art work.....thanks! :)


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