Author Sun Ke discusses the forgotten history of Chinese flower arrangement
The Chinese are “essentially the people of flowers” — or, at least, according to Sun Ke, co-author of A Brief History of Chinese Flower Arrangement. “The character 华 in 中华 [China] was used originally to describe plants and flowers being prosperous and flourishing, and in ancient Chinese, the character 花 (flower) and 华 were interchangeable,” he claimed at a recent demonstration of flower arranging.
Yet when it comes to modern flower arrangement, Japanese ikebana or kadō (華道, “way of flowers”) remains the byword. At a recent book launch and class held at The Commercial Press (CP), Sun discussed the forgotten history of flower arrangement in China and its Buddhist, Taoist, and literati influences. [Full disclosure: CP also publishes this magazine]
A native of Beijing, Sun learned flower arrangement from his mother and grandmother growing up in Nanluoguxiang, today’s popular hutong hangout for “artistic youths.” His given name, Ke, is taken from the famous Ke Yuan near his home, one of the best-preserved historical gardens in northern China, built by a Qing dynasty intellectual.