Heze peonies foster exchanges between China and other nations

China’s peony capital Heze in Shandong Province has a peony cultivating history of around 1,500 years. In Chinese culture, the flower is a symbol of wealth, auspiciousness and prosperity, which has made it a “flower ambassador” for the exchanges between China and other nations.

The peony statue at Caozhou Peony Garden in Heze, east China’s Shandong Province. /CFP

The peony statue at Caozhou Peony Garden in Heze, east China’s Shandong Province. /CFP

Early in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the peony was taken to Japan by the Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty. A story goes that Kūkai, the Japanese Buddhist monk who founded the esoteric Shingon school of Buddhism, once visited the Tang Dynasty capital Chang’an (present-day Xi’an) to learn about Buddhism.

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

He was impressed by the blooming peonies in a garden. When asked by a local monk to explain the deep messages of the peony, Kūkai said: “The royals plant peonies to ensure the stability and the prosperity of the country; the rich plant peonies to seek wealth and fortune from generation to generation; the ordinary people plant peonies to avoid disasters and hope for safe and peace; and in the temples, peonies bear the wisdom of Buddhism and can turn bad luck into good luck.”

Photo: IC

Photo: IC

In 1989, a Chinese peony garden was established in Shimane Prefecture, Japan. As the city of Heze hosts the ongoing International Peony Cultural Tourism Festival, Shimane has been chosen as a satellite venue for the celebration overseas.

In 2017, when the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held in Beijing, about 2,500 pots of Heze peonies were placed on the Tian’anmen Square. The Heze peonies can also be seen at many important occasions in China and abroad, which increases the popularity and influence of the flower.

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

The peony is a drawing card for the city of Heze, and broadly for China. In recent years, Heze has transformed its resource advantages into industrial advantages. With that, Heze peonies have been exported to about 20 countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, and South Korea. More and more peony gardens are now in existence overseas as well.