Most people must have had enough of the cold, gloomy days of winter here in Beijing. Now finally it’s March, the beginning of plum blossom season! Before you go out with your family to enjoy the beautiful flowers, here are three things you may not know about plum blossom.
The origins and symbolism of plum blossom
Each flower has its own unique symbolic meaning in Chinese culture, which is based on factors such as the health, shape, delicacy, and color of the plant. Along with pine and bamboo, plum blossom, also known as Chinese plum (梅花, méi huā), are considered as “the three friends of winter” (岁寒三友, suì hán sān yǒu). While all things are still sleeping in the freezing winter, plum blossom stands out alone as the first sign of spring. It, therefore, stands for noble, enduring, and faithful qualities. Chinese people believe the soul of the plum blossom is tempered in suffering and grows in inner strength and indomitable spirit.
Poems from the past
You can see plum blossom often depicted in art and poetry as delicate white, pink, yellow and red flowers, brave and noble against the cold winter.
In the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD), the famous poet Wang Anshi wrote the poem “Plum Blossoms”, capturing the nobility of the“friend of winter”:
A few plum twigs at the corner of the wall
Blossoming all alone, defying the cold!
Even from afar they cannot be mistaken for snow,
For a delicate fragrance comes wafting with the breeze.
Then Lu You in the Southern Dynasty (1127－1279 AD) expressed his tenacity and perseverance when he suffered career setbacks:
Outside the posthouse, beside the broken bridge,
Alone, deserted, a flower blooms.
Saddened by her solitude in the falling dusk,
She is assailed by wind and rain.
Let other flowers be envious!
She craves not Spring for herself alone.
Her petals may be ground in the mud,
But her fragrance will endure.
Even today, poets in China often use the plum blossom as a metaphor to praise great qualities, such as never yielding to fear or setbacks in life.
The best plum blossom viewing spots
Now that you’ve done your homework, pick a warm day to head out and get that perfect camera snap of plum blossom across the city. Here are a few of our favorite spots to enjoy the best plum blossom:
Under the background of the red wall and green tiles in the Qiwanglou building, the plum blossom becomes a unique attraction in Jingshan Park. The golden bud that waits for bloom hangs on the branch delightfully with a spring fragrance.
6.30am-8pm. RMB 2. No. 44, Jingshan West Street, Xicheng District. 北京市西城区景山西街44号
In the Summer Palace, there is a small courtyard called Le Nongxuan, where the Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu of the Qing Dynasty once walked. Today there are more than a dozen species of wintersweet, the yellow plum blossom.
7am-5pm. RMB 30 (peak season Apr 1-Oct 31), RMB 20 (off-season Nov 1-Mar 31 of the following year). No. 19, Xinjian Gongmen Road, Haidian District. 北京市海淀区新建宫门路19号颐和园
Beijing Botanical Garden
The Reclining Buddha Temple in Botanical Garden has always been a famous place for appreciating plum blossom in Beijing. There are more than 100 varieties of plum at the scenic spot.
9am-5pm. RMB 5. Beijing Botanical Garden, Xiangshan Road, Haidian District. 北京市海淀区香山路北京植物园内
Yuetan Park (the Altar of the Moon)
Yuetan Park, located in Xicheng District, was the place where emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties sacrificed to the moon god. It is also one of the famous “Five Altars and Eight Temples” in Beijing. It is divided into South Park and North Park; you can enjoy the plum blossom in South Park.
6am-7.30pm. RMB 1. No. A6, Yuetan North Street, Xicheng District. 北京市西城区月坛北街甲6号
Along the west gate of Yuyuantan Park in the ancient pine forest, hundreds of plum trees bloom, attracting many visitors. Most of these plum trees are around 10 years old and cover an area of 3,000 square meters. One special attraction here is the Mandarin Duck in the Cherry Blossom Lake.
6am-7pm. RMB 2. No. 10, middle Xisanhuan Road, Haidian District. 北京市海淀区西三环中路10号