It’s finally Spring in Beijing, and with spring comes warm weather, better air, and flowers. Home to several imperial gardens, Beijing is certainly no stranger to flowers. While flowers are beautiful no matter where they are, the vast amount of locations can be overwhelming, and scoping out the best flower gazing spots can get tiring. For those visiting or living in Beijing in the next few months, if you’re in the mood to see some flowers, check out some of these spots.
Roses have long been a part of Chinese floral culture. As far back as the 4th and 5th centuries AD, China had a widespread rose culture, and roses were mentioned as noteworthy flowers in the China Floral Encyclopedia (Zhongguo Huajing). While ancient Chinese art tended to favor peonies, roses remained an important part of Chinese life, especially during the Ming Dynasty. In the late 18th century, the repeat-flowering roses were introduced in Europe by China, amongst several other cultivated plants.
The best place to see China Roses in Beijing is Taoranting Park. One of China’s four famous historical pavilions, Taoranting Park’s China rose garden has several hundred varieties of roses, blooming in reds, pinks, and blues among other colors.
In China, the cherry blossom is a symbol of femininity, in particular female beauty, sexuality, authority and power. It is also considered to be a symbol of love. While the origin of the cherry blossom is still debated, in modern times, the cherry blossom is widespread and particularly admired in parts of Asia such as China, Japan and Korea.
The best place to see cherry blossoms in Beijing is Yuyuantan Park, home to China’s largest cherry tree garden. While cherry blossoms do grow naturally in parts of northwest and southern China, the first 180 trees in Yuyuantan’s cherry garden were gifted to China from Japan in 1973. Since then, more and more cherry trees have been cultivated, and the garden is now home to over 3,000 cherry trees.
Long-favored by Chinese artists, peonies hold a special place in Chinese culture. They represent riches, prosperity, beauty, honor and peace. Additionally, peonies are considered the unofficial national flower of China. While the peonies in Luoyang are considered the best in China, it is still possible to see them in Beijing as well.
Jingshan Park is considered the best place to see peonies in Beijing. Royal families have been planting peonies in Jingshan Park since the Yuan dynasty, and now the park contains more than 1,000 peonies spanning nearly 100 varieties.
Stemming from the belief that the tree of immortality is a peach tree, peaches hold an important position in Chinese culture. The peach tree is considered to represent longevity, and peach blossoms are considered signs of luck and prosperity. These connotations of luck and prosperity mean that peaches are often featured in Chinese New Year dinners.
Head over to Pinggu District, just north of the city, for the best view of peach blossoms in Beijing. Pinggu District is home to the largest peach orchard in the world, covering over 20,000 hectares with peach trees. Several areas of Pinggu district, including Taohuashan Mountain, are covered in peach blossoms, offering viewers a picturesque view.
In China, lilacs are generally associated with ideas of spirituality and purity, therefore lilacs are often found outside of Buddhist temples. In particular, the Chinese are fond of purple and white lilacs, since purple lilacs indicate deep spirituality, while white lilacs convey the idea of purity.
Due to the abundance of Buddhist temples in Bejing, it is not hard to find lilacs in the city. In particular, Jietai Temple and Fayuan Temple are known for their lilac gardens. Fayuan Temple contains both purple and white lilacs, as well as foreign lilacs allegedly brought over by Ming Dynasty explorers. Meanwhile, the Jietai Temple has over 1,000 lilac trees, with some over 200 years old.
Like the peach, the Chinese consider the pear to be a symbol of longevity and prosperity, based off the beloved legend Journey to the West, which tells the tale of a magical fruit, shaped like a baby that would grant the eater immortality. While that theory appears far-fetched, the Chinese still appreciate the sweet taste of pears, and the delicate beauty of pear blossoms.
In order to see pear blossoms in Beijing, head out of the city, this time to Daxing District, a suburb in southern Beijing. There, you can head over to Lihua Village in Panggezhuang District. Known, literally, as the Pear Blossom Village, Lihua Village has over 300,000 trees ranging from 100 to 416 years old.
The Chinese began identifying and naming magnolias long before Western botanists did, calling the flower huo po. In addition to discovering and naming the magnolias, the Chinese quickly discovered medicinal uses for magnolia flowers, which quickly became integrated into traditional Chinese medicine. In ancient China, magnolias were symbols of dignity and nobility.
While magnolias are rather common in Beijing, people still flock to Dajue and Tanzhe Temples to view the special magnolias there. The magnolia tree at Dajue Temple is over 300 years old, said to be planted by the Buddhist monk Jialing during the Qing dynasty. People enjoy viewing the magnolias at Dajue Temple, as they are extraordinarily large, fragrant, flawless and elegant. Meanwhile the magnolia trees at Tanzhe temple are famous for their purple hues, setting them apart from the typical white magnolias. Over 200 years old, the trees are also known as the “Two Qiao Beauties” based on two beautiful women who lived in China during the Three Kingdoms Period.
The first of the flowers to bloom, apricot blossoms are viewed as the heralds of springtime in Northern China. While associated with springtime and beauty, apricot blossoms are also often linked with education and medicine-Confucius often taught students in a grove of apricot trees, sparking the use of the term “Apricot Alter” to indicate an educational forum. Nowadays, apricot blossoms in Beijing exude a feeling of calm and serenity.
The best place to see the apricot blossoms in Beijing is in Phoenix Ridge Nature Park. Despite being in the midst of the bustling city, the apricot blossoms help create a peaceful get away from the fast paced city. During peak blossom period, the park is blanketed with flowers, thanks to the almost 100 acres of apricot blossoms.
While these are some great places to see flowers, Beijing has, surprisingly, an abundance of flowers! Wherever you decide to go, make sure you take some time to stop and smell the flowers.
And here is what different Chinese flowers mean.
Cover photo of cherry blossoms from duitang.com.