Flowers Used in Ikebana

Ikebana is the art of Japanese flower arranging. There are a number of different schools of ikebana, each with its own unique requirements. The requirements can involve angling stems in a certain way or choosing specific kinds of arrangements for different types of vases. The flowers used in all the schools are similar. Certain flowers have symbolic meanings in Japanese culture. Combining different flowers gives each ikebana arrangement a symbolic meaning.

Chrysanthemum

The chrysanthemum is symbolic of the sun in Japan. The orderly unfolding of the flower as the chrysanthemum blooms is symbolic of natural perfection. A single chrysanthemum petal is often placed in the bottom of a wine glass as a symbol of wishes of health and long life. The chrysanthemum is also symbolic of the Japanese Imperial family. The Imperial lineage dates back to the sixth century. Since its inception, the family emblem, similar in function to a crest in European culture, has been a chrysanthemum. The Japanese Emperor sometimes sits on a chrysanthemum throne.

Iris

The iris is a symbol of heroism in Japan. The flower plays a key role in the Japanese Boy's Festival, traditionally held on May 5th. The blue color of the iris is symbolic of a boy's "blue blood." The word for iris in Japanese is "shoubu." The pronunciation of this word is similar to "warrior." Irises are thought to offer protection from storms, including typhoons. In some cases, the Chinese belief that the iris wards off demons and evil spirits has transferred to Japan.

Camellia

As one of the first flowers to bloom in spring, the camellia is strongly associated with spring and rejuvenation. Because of their deep and complex symbolism, camellia flowers are used to express certain ideas in ikebana. Camellias are symbolic of longevity, the bonds of love, a happy marriage, good fortune, victory under adversity and general happiness.

Peony

Although peonies originated in China, they transferred to Japan with Buddhism by the eighth century. Peonies are frequently used in ikebana because they symbolize wealth and prosperity. This symbolism likely stems from the fact that only wealthy people could afford to care for peony bushes and trees. Peonies grow in a variety of colors, including red, white and yellow.

Keywords: Japanese flower arranging, Japanese flower symbolism, meaning of flowers

About this Author

Although he grew up in Latin America, Mr. Ma is a writer based in Denver. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, AP, Boeing, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, RAHCO International, Umax Data Systems and other manufacturers in Taiwan. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese, English and reads Spanish.