Peonies a drawing card of Heze City in Shandong

Known as Caozhou in ancient times, the city of Heze in east China’s Shandong Province has a long history of growing peonies, which are presented in a variety of forms from the plant itself to inspired art works.

Blooming peonies are pictured at Caozhou Peony Garden in Heze, Shandong Province on April 7, 2024. /IC

Blooming peonies are pictured at Caozhou Peony Garden in Heze, Shandong Province on April 7, 2024. /IC

Peonies, symbolizing wealth, auspiciousness and prosperity in Chinese culture, have been cultivated in China for over a thousand years, with Heze being the main growing region since the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

This has led to the abundance of varieties available today. Heze’s ornamental peonies are known for having nine series of colors, 10 flower types, and 1,308 varieties. It is considered the world’s largest base for peony breeding, cultivation, research, processing, export, and ornamental display. In 2012, the city was named the “Peony Capital of China” by the China Flower Association.

A skirt made from peony petal-shaped fabric is seen during a Heze peony-themed exhibition in Beijing on April 30, 2019. /CFP 

A skirt made from peony petal-shaped fabric is seen during a Heze peony-themed exhibition in Beijing on April 30, 2019. /CFP 

Peony elements exist in every part of people’s life in Heze. Here, peony-related legends, dough sculptures, carvings, calligraphy, paintings, paper cuttings, operas, clothing, food and other products are prevalent.

Heze porcelain-crafted peonies are seen during a Heze peony-themed exhibition in Beijing on April 30, 2019. /CFP 

Heze porcelain-crafted peonies are seen during a Heze peony-themed exhibition in Beijing on April 30, 2019. /CFP 

Among them is the porcelain-crafted peony, which is known as the “peony flower that never withers.” It combines the peony flower with ceramic culture and is the embodiment of a unique Heze porcelain tradition that involves more than 20 production processes.

The peony banquet is a signature food set of Heze. It includes hot dishes, cold dishes and wheaten foods which make flexible use of different peony materials like petals, pollen, and peony oil. With unique techniques, it endows the peony banquet with profound art and cultural characteristics.

A girl wearing a peony wreath and holding a peony-adorned fan is seen during the 33rd Heze International Peony Cultural Tourism Festival in Heze, Shandong Province on April 8, 2024. /IC

A girl wearing a peony wreath and holding a peony-adorned fan is seen during the 33rd Heze International Peony Cultural Tourism Festival in Heze, Shandong Province on April 8, 2024. /IC

The 2024 World Peony Conference and the 33rd Heze International Peony Cultural Tourism Festival opened on April 8 in Heze. The theme this year is “Let the world fall in love with Heze peony.” For years, local authorities have been developing both the peony industry and peony culture, continually spreading the flower’s influence and presenting its beauty to the world.