Flowers in Chinese Culture
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Flowers in Chinese Culture

Folklore, Poetry, Religion

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By Anlan Zhang
155 Pages
Nov 2015
ISBN 978-1-931483-30-8


Flowers and blossoms are intricate and dainty, beautiful and transient. Marking the passing of the seasons while flourishing in radiant splendor, they open our hearts to beauty, provide creative inspiration, and connect us to the divine. Each culture has its own unique symbolism and lore associated with its flowers. Flowers in Chinese Culture presents the subtle and potent relevance of thirty flowering plants in Chinese Daoist culture, exploring religion, literature, folklore, and sayings. A delight to behold, it is a treasure trove of learning and insight.


An Lan Zhang was educated in classical Chinese by her mother, a teacher of Chinese literature, and her father, a professor of language and law whose family had lived in the same house near Beijing’s Forbidden City for 700 years. After growing up in Taiwan, she earned an undergraduate degree from China and a master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts in language and linguistics. She is an independent translator and scholar, writing about Chinese culture, poetry, and popular sayings.


An Lan Zhang makes an outstanding contribution to the study of Chinese religion and ethnobiology. By drawing upon an unusual mastery of flowers, trees, and plants, Zhang reveals the widely recognized, but little understood, botanical tradition as it appears over thousands of years of Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, popular religion and folk culture. The work itself stands like a flowering fruit tree. Scholarly insight is the root, textual evidence forms the branches, and Zhang’s personal memories of three generations of her family are the colorful blossoms. Zhang deftly interlaces the many threads that create the complex world of Chinese culture. With beautiful illustrations and colorful stories, she offers refreshing insights for the scholar familiar with China as well as a delightful introduction for the novice. Importantly, Zhang elicits in the reader affection for the natural world that is much needed today.  —Bede Benjamin Bidlack, Saint Anselm College
At many levels, this book is both important and enchanting. It is also beautiful in its own right. Born of great love and a deep sense of the beauty of flowers and trees, it is also a learned celebration of the power and richness of ancient Chinese culture. As this is now being gradually revealed to the Western world, we are beginning to know of a sense of consciousness of the world and our own being that is wondrous and strange to the post-Enlightenment mind. This book makes an important contribution to that knowledge.  —David Jasper, University of Glasgow