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September 12, 2017 > Chrysanthemum Stories

Chrysanthemum Stories

By Pat Kite

Chrysanthemums are our autumn protest of winter. They are everyplace, inexpensive, in pots, with colors to match any room, any mood. Depending on who is arguing, chrysanthemums originated in China. Confucius wrote about them in 500 B.C. He referred to historical records. According to Confucius, chrysanthemums were meditation flowers. The name comes from ÒChu hua,Ó translated as ÒOctober flower.Ó

It is a noble plant, highly regarded, and was once the emblem of the old Chinese Army. Time marches. In 400 A.D. Buddhist monks carried chrysanthemums to Japan. The Emperors were extremely impressed. Not only did chrysanthemums symbolize the sun, the orderly way petals opened symbolized perfection. It became the national flower in 910 A.D. Today, the Japanese imperial coat of arms displays a 16-petaled, golden chrysanthemum. (Some interpret this as a ÒRising Sun,Ó but it is a chrysanthemum.)

Of course, there is another story of this plantÕs travels; readers tell me they like a story, so onwards. Twelve maidens and twelve young men of the highest Chinese nobility were sent by ship to find the ÒHerb of YouthÓ for their Emperor. The youths carried bamboo baskets of golden chrysanthemums, ChinaÕs most precious product, to trade for the magic herb of longevity. Alas, the seas were stormy, and the vessel ran aground. The voyagers planted their chrysanthemums, and settled down to build an empire. This, according to legend, became the Empire of Japan.

The plant kept traveling. The first chrysanthemum to reach Europe arrived in 1688. The plant entered America in 1798. The Chrysanthemum Society of America held it first exhibit in 1902. Hybridization continues. There are colors galore, and the shapes are pompom, incurve, thistle, spider, brush, spoon and quill. To the Chinese, the chrysanthemum represents rest and relaxation. To the Japanese, chrysanthemums are a sign of long life and happiness. And for those who like to celebrate, there is a Chrysanthemum Day, part of the Double Ninth Festival. This year it is September 9, the ninth day of the ninth month.

For those like to eat cake, there is a special chrysanthemum cake, chung-yang. It is a steamed cake concocted of rice flower, red bean filling, crushed nuts, sugar, and other things; there is a recipe for it on the Internet. In the Ayurvedic tradition, the Chrysanthemum is associated with the heart chakra. If you focus on the flowerÕs beauty, hopefully the blossom will move its beauty into your heart.

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