If there is a flowering plant that instantly triggers an association with oriental culture, it is the plum blossom (梅花).
A big reason why this is so is that during Chinese New Year, which is the most celebrated festival of Chinese, plum blossoms are pretty much the only plants you can see all over the place.
Even when there are other flowers on display at a person’s home, the overwhelming presence of blooming plum blossoms will dominate any landscape during the festivities.
In classical movies set in ancient China, viewers are also bound to see these plants flowering to create beautiful backdrops as if specifically choreograph to mimic special effects.
While they are often put with chrysanthemums in a tall vase for display, chrysanthemums lack the dominating presence of plum blossoms by design.
Plum blossoms are undoubtedly auspicious flowers that signify perpetual beauty.
They have an ability to hold against the harsh cold of winter. And are even known to have their flowers bloom when the plant and it’s branches are seemingly dying.
Thus is a also a strong symbol of success through adversity, nobility and longevity.
It is no wonder they are highly revered in feng shui and in Chinese culture.
In the western world, the label prunus has often been used to refer to this plant. But that is a very wide generalization as prunus is a genus with a wide array of varieties.
Legend of plum blossoms
During ancient times, the plant gained a reputation as the “flower that welcomes spring” as it flowers magnificently during the transition period from winter to spring.
This seasonal behavior associates it with hope, purity and transition.
As Chinese New Year (CNY) also marks the beginning of spring, this plant holds particular significance in culture.
The 5 petal of it’s flowers is also believed to carry 5 different blessings (五福).
- Longevity (寿)
- Wealth (富)
- Health (康宁)
- Virtue (修好德)
- Peaceful and natural death (考终命)
This association of the flowering plant and the 5 blessings is so deeply embedded in Chinese culture that it often takes the form of paintings which are arguably as infamous as the paintings of 8 horses and the 100 birds. The name given for this arrangement is mei kai wu fu (梅开五福) which is translated as plum blossoms with 5 blessings.
This is why it is is considered a very good omen to have the plant or painting in the house during CNY. And guest who arrive for visiting will be able to benefit from these blessings as well.
Many famous poets and scholars have referenced the plant in their work for it’s cultural significance.
A particular painting that can sometimes be found in Chinese homes is one with a magpie standing poised on the branch of a plum blossom, representing the phrase Xi Shang Mei Shao (喜上眉梢) which translates as “happiness up to ones’ eyebrows”.
This is a word play of the word 梅 from Mandarin name of the plum and 眉 which means eyebrow.
This should not be confused with another particular depiction of the magpie and plum with the former chirping happily on the latter’s branch.
The meaning behind this painting is Xi Bao Chun Xian (喜報春先) which signifies the “arrival of early spring” and marks new happy beginnings.
Then there is the depiction of the plum with a pair of Paradise-flycatchers. This is another profound wordplay that relates to blessing a couple with long-lasting bliss, love and happiness.
An immortalized painting by a great painter grouped the plum with chrysanthemum and narcissus. It was titled 3 hermits. This was a tribute to 3 of the great poets in the past whose work rose to infamy during different eras.
There is also a popular Chinese phrase Mei Qi He Zi (梅妻鹤子) which translates to “plum wife and crane sons”.
This is often depicted in paintings and artwork. It is even referenced in poetry from time to time.
This phrase arouse from a story of well-know religious man who wrote poetry at home. In his spare time, he grew plum blossoms and took care of cranes as pets.
He cared for them so much that the neighbors started to label them as his wife and sons.
In the I-Ching book of changes, there is also a divination method called the Mei Hua Yi Shu (梅花易數). But the practice of it is uncommon among feng shui masters. This is because it only makes up a small segment of the I-Ching.
Feng shui placement of plum blossoms
As you can probably tell from the various stories which the plum played a role, this plant truly carries significance, especially in symbolism.
This is why they are one of the most popular plants depicted in paintings that hang in the living room.
They signify virtue, harmony, wisdom and determination, among various positive connotations.
Therefore, pictures and paintings are best framed and hung in common areas like the living room so that everyone can benefit from it’s presence.
This also means that for real live plum blossoms, the best locations to place them is also the east.
The north is an alternative as it is an area of water energy. This elemental energy would help the plant grow in strength.
Otherwise, the Kun trigram in the southwest govern relationships in the house. This would also be a good place to place these flowering plants.
When hung in bedrooms, they can enhance romance luck for those who’ve had a failed marriage to seek a second one.
Finally, if you are buying plum blossoms just for the CNY festivities, remember to discard them in a respectful and proper manner.