"I don't have a particular preference for chrysanthemum, yet there are indeed no better looking flowers after it blooms," wrote the Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet Yuan Zhen in his poem "Chrysanthemum."
Yuan is not the only one who praises the chrysanthemum's beauty in his poems.
So how pretty is this flower? The vast chrysanthemum sea unveiled today in Kaifeng, central China's Henan province may give a hint.
2,950,000 pots of chrysanthemum flowers are on exhibition across the city, indoors and outdoors, during the month-long Chrysanthemum Culture Festival which opened today.
The chrysanthemum is the flower of the city, and it has been 35 years since the first festival was held in 1983. This year, it also brings different breeds of chrysanthemum from different countries including the Netherlands, Italy, France, Japan, and Vietnam.
The chrysanthemum in Chinese culture
In case some are wondering why the city is buzzing about a flower, the chrysanthemum is a unique symbol in Chinese culture.
The chrysanthemum, together with the plum blossom, orchid and bamboo have been regarded as the four symbols of noble characters by Chinese scholars since ancient times. Chrysanthemum, in particular, has many meanings.
A renowned poet in history, Tao Yuanming (365-427) wrote a poem about how he tried to live as a hermit.
"I pluck chrysanthemums under the eastern hedge, And gaze afar towards the southern mountains," Tao wrote in his poem, depicting how he loved the flower. Since then, the chrysanthemum has been regarded as the symbol of the hermit.
The chrysanthemum blooms in bright colors during chilly autumn, a time when most flowers wither. Facing coldness and a tough environment, it blooms splendidly without attempting to compete with other flowers – this unique aspect of the chrysanthemum makes it a symbol of strong vitality and tenacity in the eyes of scholars.
That characteristic of the chrysanthemum inspired scholars and poets from different dynasties in literary creation. Besides praising its beauty, they also made the chrysanthemum a symbol which represents themselves in their work.
Chrysanthemum is also an ideal and common choice for decorations in big events, such as festivals and meetings in autumn.
Moreover, it brings more than a visual feast, but an actual feast.
During the Double Ninth Festival, which takes place on September 9 on the lunar calendar, drinking wine made from chrysanthemum is a tradition.
Chrysanthemum tea is also very common on Chinese tables. Tasting great, it's also good for one's heath.
Traditional Chinese medicine believes chrysanthemum tea can help balance the internal heat.