How to Offend Flowers

Cornus florida rubra ©Kim Smith 2012Native Pink Flowering Dogwood ~ Cornus flordia rubra

While writing Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! I would often come across what seemed at the time random information, but would jot it down anyhow hoping that it would find its way into the pages of my book. The following excerpt was found within a display of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) porcelain at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore where I was researching Chinese flower and bird painting. I laughed out loud when reading and it makes me smile with every subsequent read but wonder if it is only funny to we flower- lovers.

Enjoying flowers with tea is the best, enjoying them with conversation the second and enjoying them with wine the least. Feasts and all sorts of vulgar language are most deeply detested and resented by the spirit of the flowers. It is better to keep the mouth shut and sit still than to offend the flowers. 

—from a Ming Dynasty  (1368-1644)  treatise on flowers Walters Art Museum

The idea that flowers can be offended by bad manners reflects the belief that the world we inhabit is an organism in which all phenomena interrelate. By the same reasoning, someone who drinks tea from a peach- shaped pot will live longer (peaches symbolize longevity), and someone who dips his writing brush in a peony-shaped bowl will have good fortune, as the peony is a metaphor for success and wealth. The love of flowers was and continues to be a passion among the Chinese and trees and plants are genuinely loved as living creatures.

To win a free copy of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities ! Notes from a Gloucester Garden leave a comment or see yesterday’s post about the Magnolia virginiana.

About Kim Smith

Currently creating documentary films about the Monarch Butterfly, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, and Gloucester's Feast of St. Joseph. Landscape designer for the Gloucester Harbor Walk Gardens. Designer, lecturer, author, illustrator, photographer. Visit my blog for more information about my landscape and interior design firm- Good Morning Gloucester daily contributor. Author/illustrator "Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden"
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7 Responses to How to Offend Flowers

  1. Wow – not only is your writing incredibly informative and interesting but these photographs you are posting with them are just so stunning as well!

  2. Devera says:

    I love the notion that flowers can be offended. Thank you, and for your wonderful photos.

    • Kim Smith says:

      Thank you Devera for your kind comments regarding my photos.

      I think this belief or notion must have been held dearly by the masters of Chines flower bird painting–the evidence is in the exquisiteness of their art!

  3. Heidi W. says:

    Thank you for your knowledge and poetry on all things flower and butterfly. I love the notion of not offending flowers, and that you are ‘planting the seed’ of interrelation between humans and other species.
    Noticing and appreciating the beauty in the natural world can help us make sense of the tragedy and ugliness we humans are capable of.

  4. I’ve learned something new and interesting from your Ming Dynasty post. It makes sense that all living things are interconnected. ‘Course, I never knew I could offend a flower! I love the concept, though. Thanks for sharing, Kim.

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