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Chinese Symbols and Meanings - Plum Blossoms and Water Narcissus Chinese New Year Symbols of Prosperity

Updated on February 9, 2018
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Born and raised in Malaysia, Mazlan is proud of his Malaysian and Asian heritage and likes to share its mysteries, culture & current issues.

Chinese Symbols and Meanings

Chinese New Year is the time of the year to usher in fortune and prosperity and to observe its ancient traditions and to avoid its taboos. There are several Chinese symbols and meanings to these old practices such as no yellow and white chrysanthemums allowed in the house since it is associated with funerals and mournings. Pear is another bad symbols as it is associated with separation and divorce.

Chinese Symbol of Prosperity

But to wear or display anything red is auspicious as it will scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.

To have tangerines and oranges in homes and offices is another good Chinese symbol of prosperity since it brings happiness and prosperity.

Animal figurines depicted in the Chinese zodiac and certain favorable flowers displayed as part of the home and office decors are auspicious.

Chinese New Year is the most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. So, these Chinese symbols and meanings are important to remember to ensure an auspicious celebration and to bring in luck the whole year.

For this article, we will explore another Chinese symbol of prosperity, the flowers but not just any flowers.

Plum blossoms will flower in the bitter winter from a branch that seems lifeless, which to the Chinese symbolizes hope and courage. A very important Chinese symbol for prosperity.
Plum blossoms will flower in the bitter winter from a branch that seems lifeless, which to the Chinese symbolizes hope and courage. A very important Chinese symbol for prosperity. | Source

Flower a Chinese New Year Symbol

Flowers represent new growth after the long winter and when flowers start to bloom, it signifies life and good fortune. Flowers will also lead to fruits, which is another symbol associated with fortune.

If there are no flowers during Chinese New Year, it will not be auspicious. It is therefore important to have flowers as part of the decorations during Chinese New Year celebration

There are many flowers that are associated with this celebration. The plum blossom and water narcissus are two of the most popular flowers that are important Chinese New Year symbols of prosperity.

Chinese Symbols and Meanings for Plum Blossoms

Plum Blossoms are winter flowers and blooms in late winter and early spring from a tree branch that looks lifeless. Emerging from its bark is the gorgeous blooms to amaze us with its beauty and color. The fragrance will surround the air and in that cold winter, you get to enjoy the delicate scent and colorful blooms. To the Chinese, these symbolize courage, hope, beauty, purity, and prosperity.

Plum blossom is an important Chinese symbol and plays a significant role in the Chinese New Year celebration. Cut sprays of plum blossoms will be placed in homes and offices to represent beauty and hope for a fruitful and good year.

Because of its beauty and importance, plum blossom is depicted in Chinese paintings, poetry and in classical Chinese dance. It is also associated with the start of spring in China and Japan.

Cut cherry blossoms will be part of Chinese New Year decoration as it symbolizes hope and purity
Cut cherry blossoms will be part of Chinese New Year decoration as it symbolizes hope and purity | Source

Trivial Info on Plum Blossoms

Plum blossom was declared the national flower for The Republic of China (Taiwan) on July 21, 1964, with the five petals representing the country's five branches of the government.

Plum Blossom Tree

The tree originated from southern part of China and is now commonly found in other parts of temperate Asian countries such as Japan and Korea, and in other parts of the world like America, Europe, and Australia.

Plum blossoms come in various shades of pink, yellow, white and red but the pink and red flowers are commonly used for Chinese New Year celebration.

White and yellow plum blossoms are the other varieties. The red and pink are more significant for Chinese New Year celebration
White and yellow plum blossoms are the other varieties. The red and pink are more significant for Chinese New Year celebration | Source

Plum Blossoms vs. Cherry Blossoms

Are there any differences between plum blossoms and cherry blossoms?

Yes there are and some examples of these are:

  • The Japanese called the plum blossom ume and cherry blossom sakura.
  • Plum blossom will bloom late January up to February but Cherry blossom will bloom in April
  • Plum blossom petals are round whilst cherry blossom petals are oval in shape

They do however have some similarities and these are:

  • Five numbers of petals
  • Comes in many varieties of colors

Both the plum and cherry blossoms are equally beautiful and a joy to watch during the bleak and cold winter and spring.

Feng Shui Element in Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is not just about culture and tradition. It signifies a change in the Feng Shui cycle. The animal year will change annually with new implications that take effect. To enjoy the beneficial energies and changes in the zodiac direction, you need to adjust your lifestyle, house, and office layout.

These can be expensive if you have to change and renovate with every Lunar New Year. For people with strong belief in Feng Shui elements, the changes are mandatory. For the rest of us, made do with small adjustments and adorn your house with auspicious items such as flowers, instead.

Water narcissus, also known as daffodil is Chinese symbol for good luck and fortune
Water narcissus, also known as daffodil is Chinese symbol for good luck and fortune | Source

Chinese Symbols and Meanings for Water Narcissus

Water narcissus, also known as the daffodil, is a Chinese symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and good luck. If the water narcissus blossoms exactly on the Chinese New Year day, it brings prosperity and good fortune the whole year.

So, you will find water narcissus plants as part of the Chinese New Year decorations in homes and offices, in anticipation of a beautiful bloom on Chinese New Year day. Water narcissus has a sweet fragrance, another good reason to have them around.

Chinese Symbols of Prosperity Infographic
Chinese Symbols of Prosperity Infographic

Water Narcissus Carving

The Chinese have developed a unique art of planting water narcissus that grows in different sizes and shapes. This narcissus carving has been around for more than one thousand years and is an art that has now become popular outside of China.

The masters of narcissus carving will cut the onion-like bulb in such a way for the leaves and flowers to curl instead of growing straight.

Narcissus carving is an art developed in China for more than 1000 years and this type of water narcissus is a popular plant for display during Chinese New Year
Narcissus carving is an art developed in China for more than 1000 years and this type of water narcissus is a popular plant for display during Chinese New Year | Source

How to Do Narcissus Carving

If you are keen to try this ancient Chinese art of narcissus carving, these are the simple but delicate steps to follow:

  • Cut the narcissus bulb about half an inch deep (from about half an inch above the root)
  • Remove the scales from the line cut until you can see the leaves inside the bulb
  • Use a special blade or carving knife to cut open the scale until you see the flower bud
  • Be very careful not to damage these leaves and/or flower buds

Narcissus carving is an addictive art that will produce an interesting end result for your Chinese New Year decoration
Narcissus carving is an addictive art that will produce an interesting end result for your Chinese New Year decoration | Source
  • Trim these scales for both sides until it is half out
  • If you opt to remove the scale from the top half (above the cut line) then keep the lower half in the scale (or vice versa)
  • If you want a curving leaf, cut not more than half of the leave
  • If you want a curving stem, do a small tiny scratch on the stem
  • Then soak this bulb facing down in water for five days. Change water daily
  • Finally, get your desired bowl or vase and place this bulb with water at the same level as the roots. Place pebbles, rocks etc. around this bulb

Change water every 3-4 days and place it near a sunlit area. You will get to enjoy your labor of love in about a month but in a warmer weather, it blooms earlier.

If you can't afford narcissus carving, cut water narcissus is a good alternative for Chinese New Year Celebration to bring good fortune
If you can't afford narcissus carving, cut water narcissus is a good alternative for Chinese New Year Celebration to bring good fortune | Source

Other Flowers for Good Chinese New Year Symbols

If you live in tropical countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia, to decorate your homes and offices with fresh plum blossoms or water narcissus is expensive as they are temperate plants.

Artificial plum blossoms with Chinese New Year decoration
Artificial plum blossoms with Chinese New Year decoration | Source

So, some people use the artificial versions instead.

There are also other flowers that grow well in tropical countries that are auspicious for Chinese New Year. These are sunflowers, pussy willows, and azalea.

Chinese Symbols and Meanings

The significance and meanings associated with these flowers are:

  • Sunflower is associated with having a good year
  • Pussy Willow has multiple fluffy blossoms and is associated with bountiful fortune
  • Red Azalea is associated with balance in life, harmony, and happiness

(Note: Although these flowers are temperate flowers, they do grow well in the tropical country. But they may not be as large as those grown in temperate countries.)

Pussy willow is a good alternative flower to have during Chinese New Year
Pussy willow is a good alternative flower to have during Chinese New Year | Source

Luck and Fortune all Year Round

It is important to know of the Chinese symbols and meanings so that you give an auspicious gift to Chinese friends when you visit them for Chinese New Year.

But why wait for the Lunar New Year to give these flowers or to have them in your homes or offices. Bring luck and good fortune all year round now, with plum blossoms, water narcissus, pussy willows, azalea, and sunflowers.

If you want to learn more about the Chinese legend and folklore on the water narcissus, read this amazing book.

How to Make Your Own Plum Blossom

© 2013 Mazlan

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    • profile image

      yy 

      18 months ago

      good

    • profile image

      nguyenthuyvn 

      2 years ago

      Vietnamese Ao Dai

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      2 years ago from Malaysia

      Thank you Robert Sacchi. I am glad you like the article and thanks for dropping by. hHve a great holiday and Happy New Year to you.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      2 years ago

      Thank you. A very interesting article with some really good flower decoration ideas.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      3 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi MJ Martin. Your comment came smack on Chinese New Year eve, probably a sure sign of hope and good fortune :)

      Thanks for the visit and have lots of Plum Blossoms around your house this Chinese New Year month of Feb!

    • MJ Martin profile image

      MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose 

      3 years ago from Washington State

      Plum and Cherry Blossoms are so beautiful. To me a sure sign spring will always continue to bring us hope and good fortune. Love your pictures. Interesting to know daffodils and willows are included. Many grow around here too.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      3 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi aesta1. That was very kind of them. When you are away from home, small things like this matter during festive season. Thanks for sharing.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Celebrating New Year is not complete without Plum blossoms. Last year, to celebrate TET, the Vietnamese New Year, a Vietnamese friend gave us some for our hotel room. We were really touched.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      3 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Hannemarie. You are welcome and thanks for stopping by.

    • Hannemarie profile image

      Hannemarie 

      3 years ago

      Thanks for the lovely pics and the vid! :)

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      avorodisa

      CMHypno

      Bk42author

      Thank you all for the visit, compliments and greetings. Plum blossoms are usually available during the CNY season in Chinatown and water narcissus is actually daffodil, which should be available in the UK.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Very interesting post and the pictures are beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 

      4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      What a beautiful hub greatstuff! I love flowers and to find out the traditions and beliefs surrounding them is fascinating. I don't know if we can get plum blossom or water narcissus in the UK, but I will see if I can find some.

    • avorodisa profile image

      Anna Sidorova 

      4 years ago from Russia

      Such a beautiful combination, indeed. Oh, and Happy Chinese Lunar (New) Year!!

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      @avorodisa, Thank you for the compliments and the Share on Pinterest. Coincidentally, today is the new Chinese Lunar Year or Chinese New Year that welcomes the Year of Wooden Horse. Horse is usually associated with bearer of good things. Plum blossom is a symbol of courage and strong personality. A good combination for year 2014!

    • avorodisa profile image

      Anna Sidorova 

      4 years ago from Russia

      Excellent hub. Found it with the search tool on Hubpages. Strange enough, it didn't get featured. It's worthy of the best place on Hubpages. Great photos, very beautiful. The choice of the topic is really a win-win. Flowers are always an amazing topic to write about, especially when it comes to flower symbolism. Chinese New Year is an interesting subject, and so popular, also. You mentioned feng shui which is a great idea, too. Shared the amazing photos on Pinterest))) Good luck.

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      4 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Anne, I’m glad the article was interesting for you and thanks for the compliments. Now is the Chinese New Year season, which will fall on 31st Jan 2014. The florists will be busy with flowers and fruits that are commonly associated with CNY, which are Plum Blossoms, Water Narcissus, Pussy Willows, Chrysanthemum, Oranges, and Tangerines etc. Thanks for dropping by.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 

      4 years ago from Australia

      Such a beautiful article - and the photos are also amazing. Thank you

    • greatstuff profile imageAUTHOR

      Mazlan 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      @sarahshuihan You are right. The rush for flowers, mandarin orange trees and other auspicious items for Chinese new Year is one of the coolest and fun things to do during the festive season.

      @teaches12345 Thanks for the visit and the compliment. For Chinese New Year, flowers are more symbolic in the cultural and traditional sense and it is important that the right type of flowers are bought or given as gifts. I do this every year as my neighbor celebrate Chinese New Year and I think by now, I probably have given almost all the flowers that are considered auspicious!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      The photos posted here show some beautiful flowers. I can't think of anything more expressive than flowers in welcoming in a New Year's celebration. Thank you for sharing the background on the flowers, how to cut and the celebration details.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 

      5 years ago from USA

      Great hub. One of the coolest things is being able to see these types of flowers at a traditional Chinese New Year's market. If you do this in China, be prepared for a lot of people!

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