Liang Qinzhang, a man in his 60s, has a talent for transforming twigs, branches, and flowers into beautiful and meaningful arrangements using just a pair of scissors, rubber bands, and ribbons. During the Spring Festival in Beijing, he demonstrated traditional flower arrangement techniques to gardening enthusiasts.
Liang explained that he follows Chinese tradition by using wintersweet and magnolia, which symbolize good fortune, as well as lily, which represents harmony and happiness. He pairs these with pine and cypress, which are symbols of longevity and vitality. To create a foundation for the artwork, he adds chrysanthemum and camellia. All of these plants are considered auspicious and can be combined to please the eye.
Despite the seemingly random arrangement of the flowers, Liang’s expertise allows him to create two stunning flower arrangements in just half an hour, one in a tall green vase and one on a dark blue plate.
The use of flowers in Chinese culture dates back to ancient times. Flowers were believed to have healing properties and were used in medicine and religious rituals. Over time, flower arrangements became an art form, with skilled practitioners like Liang creating arrangements that were not only aesthetically pleasing but also imbued with meaning and symbolism.
In Chinese flower arrangement, the choice of flowers and their placement are important. Flowers are chosen not only for their beauty but also for their symbolic meanings. The arrangement of the flowers is also significant, with the placement of each flower conveying a specific message.
For example, the wintersweet flower, which is often used in Chinese flower arrangement, is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. It is believed to bring happiness and good fortune to the home. The peony, another popular flower, is a symbol of wealth, honor, and beauty. It is often used in weddings and other celebrations.
The art of Chinese flower arrangement has been passed down through generations, with practitioners like Liang carrying on the tradition. Liang, who has been practicing flower arrangement for over 30 years, is considered a master of the craft. His skill and expertise allow him to create stunning arrangements that capture the essence of Chinese culture and tradition.
In addition to its aesthetic value, Chinese flower arrangement also has cultural and spiritual significance. It is a way of connecting with nature and the natural world, and it is believed to bring good luck and positive energy into the home.
, Liang Qinzhang’s talent for traditional Chinese flower arrangement is a testament to the enduring beauty and significance of this ancient art form. His use of symbolic flowers and careful placement of each bloom creates stunning works of art that are not only visually appealing but also rich in meaning and cultural significance.
According to Liang Qinzhang, Different mediums have been used since ancient times to create a grand effect for special occasions. Liang demonstrated how, with a pair of scissors, a couple of rubber bands, and ribbons, he could turn twigs, branches, and flowers into a cornucopia of bliss.
As Chinese tradition goes, Liang uses wintersweet and magnolia, whose blossoms herald good fortune, as well as lily to mean harmony and happiness, paired with pine and cypress, both of which symbolize longevity and vitality. Chrysanthemum and camellia were also added as a foundation for the artwork to enrich the content and ensure balanced aesthetics. Liang explains that they are all auspicious plants and can be combined to please the eye.
Despite the seemingly random arrangement under Liang’s hands, there’s a method to his madness. He managed to deliver two pieces of stunning flower arrangement works in half an hour, one in a tall green vase and one on a dark blue plate. At the end of the session, Liang hung festive items like miniature lanterns and firecrackers on the plants to highlight the holiday atmosphere and suggested his audience do the same.
Liang held the demonstration with the belief that it should be easy for the traditional art, named as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2008, to be enjoyed by more people. According to him, all one needs are a few branches and flowers that carry the implied meaning close to their heart. The general principle is that one needs to arrange them in a way so that they look to expand in space. The key is to create layers and a three-dimensional effect.
Liang Qinzhang demonstrated the traditional art of flower arrangement during Spring Festival in Beijing, using various plants and flowers with auspicious meanings to create stunning works of art. He hung festive items like miniature lanterns and firecrackers on the plants to highlight the holiday atmosphere and suggested his audience do the same. Liang believes that this art form should be accessible to more people, and all one needs is a few branches and flowers with implied meanings close to their heart to create a stunning arrangement. The general principle is to arrange them in a way that looks to expand in space, creating layers and a three-dimensional effect.
According to Liang Qinzhang,, the history of this art form dates back more than 3,000 years to the Shijing (The Book of Songs), which features numerous scenes of young lovers using flowers, twigs, and leaves as tokens of courtship. However, it was not until the late Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) that flower arrangement took on a more religious tone with the introduction of Buddhism from India. Buddhists placed cut flowers on temple altars, and the art of flower arrangement became more regulated.
One reason for the strict rules was that Buddhism prohibits the killing of animals, so cuttings from plants were used as offerings instead. The act of arranging flowers and leaves was also seen as a reflection of religious devotion. During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), flower arrangement gained popularity among aristocrats and the imperial court. The Song Dynasty (960-1279) saw an even wider appreciation for flower arrangement, with it being placed on par with tea making, painting mounting, and incense burning. These four activities were viewed as standard pursuits by gentlemen seeking inner tranquility.
According to Liang, traditional Chinese flower arrangement differs from its Western counterpart in that it emphasizes the expression of mood and the personalized meaning of the materials used. Liang’s own flower arrangement works are designed to convey specific messages using plants that carry implied meanings. For example, wintersweet and magnolia, whose blossoms symbolize good fortune, are often paired with lily, which represents harmony and happiness. These plants are then combined with pine and cypress, which are associated with longevity and vitality.
Liang also emphasizes the importance of creating a three-dimensional effect by arranging flowers in a way that expands into space. The key to achieving this is to create layers, which can be achieved using a few branches and flowers that carry meaning close to the heart.
The beauty of traditional Chinese flower arrangement lies not only in its aesthetic appeal but also in its connection to history, culture, and personal expression. Liang hopes that by demonstrating this art form to gardening enthusiasts, he can help more people appreciate its beauty and significance. To enhance the holiday atmosphere, Liang often adds festive items such as miniature lanterns and firecrackers to his flower arrangement works, creating a sense of joy and celebration. For Liang, flower arrangement is not just an art form but a way of life, a reflection of his values and beliefs.
According to Liang Qinzhang, a traditional Chinese flower arrangement artist, the beauty of Chinese flower arrangement lies in its naturalness, as opposed to artificial creation. He emphasizes the importance of observing plants in their natural environment and understanding their ecological habits to create better arrangements.
Chinese flower arrangement has a long history, with its traces dating back more than 3,000 years to the Shijing (The Book of Songs), where young lovers were depicted cutting flowers, twigs, and leaves as tokens of courtship. However, the introduction of Buddhism from India during the late Eastern Han Dynasty gave rise to a more formalized and religious style of flower arrangement, with strict rules and an emphasis on using cuttings from plants as offerings in lieu of animal sacrifice.
In the Tang Dynasty, flower arrangement became popular among the aristocrats and the imperial court. Its popularity continued to grow in the Song Dynasty, where it was considered one of the four standard pursuits for gentlemen seeking inner tranquility, alongside tea making, mounting of paintings, and incense burning.
Unfortunately, due to poverty and war during the mid-to-late Qing Dynasty, the tradition of flower arrangement was put on hold, and its systematic record over 250 years ago was lost. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Chinese artists, including Liang and other senior flower arrangement artists, began to restore the ancient art and publicize its essence and charm.
Liang believes that traditional Chinese flower arrangement differs from its Western counterpart in that it places more emphasis on expressing mood and personalized meaning through the materials used. He demonstrates this during his flower arrangement sessions by using wintersweet and magnolia, whose blossoms symbolize good fortune, lily to represent harmony and happiness, and pine and cypress to symbolize longevity and vitality. Chrysanthemum and camellia are also added as a foundation for the artwork, to ensure balanced aesthetics and enrich the content.
During his Spring Festival flower arrangement demonstration, Liang showcased his skills by creating two stunning flower arrangements in just half an hour. He emphasizes that anyone can learn the art of traditional Chinese flower arrangement with just a few branches and flowers that carry a special meaning close to their heart. The general principle is to arrange the flowers in a way that makes them appear to expand in space, creating layers and a three-dimensional effect.
At the end of the session, Liang hung festive items like miniature lanterns and firecrackers on the plants to highlight the holiday atmosphere and encourage his audience to do the same. He hopes that by making traditional Chinese flower arrangement more accessible and enjoyable, more people will appreciate its beauty and significance as a cultural heritage.
Liang Qinzhang’s journey in the world of flower arrangement started over four decades ago when he got a job offer at Zizhuyuan Park, also known as Purple Bamboo Park, in 1978. His initial work involved laying concrete, plastering walls, and performing maintenance tasks. But little did he know that his work would pave the way for his future career in flower arrangement.
“In the past, the flower terrace framework needs to be made on-site by park staff, so a qualified horticultural worker is required to be equipped with both art and various technical skills, such as civil engineering, and water and electricity supply,” Liang explains. Later, he was transferred to the horticulture division, where he learned about flower cultivation and management from experienced staff members. “I saw how they took care of the flowers like their children and tried to understand the flowers’ growth and habits,” he recalls. “I was deeply impressed.”
As he learned more about horticulture, Liang developed an interest in flower arrangement. He saw the craftsmanship involved as his teachers meticulously watered and applied fertilizers to plants in the park, and then pruned them into their best shape. He also observed how the trade brought joy to the public. “That was when I was determined to make a go of it,” he says.
Liang’s path towards flower arrangement was not without challenges. During the mid-to-late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the art was put on hold due to poverty and war. As a result, there was no systematic record of the country’s flower arrangement tradition over 250 years ago. It was not until the 1990s that Chinese artists started to realize its importance as a cultural heritage.
Liang and other senior flower arrangement artists began to look into historical materials and restore the ancient art to publicize its essence and charm. He believes that traditional Chinese flower arrangement is different from its Western counterpart. “It places more focus on the expression of mood and the personalized meaning of the materials used,” he explains.
Liang’s dedication to flower arrangement paid off, and he became a master of the craft. He demonstrated his skills in traditional flower arrangement during the Spring Festival in late January, where he used wintersweet, magnolia, lily, pine, cypress, chrysanthemum, and camellia to create stunning works of art. “They are all auspicious plants and can be combined to please the eye,” Liang says.
For Liang, flower arrangement is about observing and understanding the natural beauty of plants. “Therefore, we need to go out more often to observe the plants, see how the flowers grow and understand the ecological habits of the flowering branches, through which we can know how to make a better arrangement of them,” he advises. He believes that traditional Chinese flower arrangement is more about natural beauty than artificial creation.
Liang hopes that more people will be able to enjoy traditional Chinese flower arrangement, which was named as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2008. “All you need is a few branches and flowers that carry the implied meaning close to your heart,” he says. He suggests arranging them in a way that expands in space and creates layers and a three-dimensional effect.
Liang’s dedication and passion for flower arrangement have made him a master of the craft. From his humble beginnings at Zizhuyuan Park, he has become a respected artist in the field. His work serves as an inspiration to those who wish to pursue flower arrangement as a form of artistic expression.
Renowned Chinese flower arranger Liang Yongsheng has spent over four decades in the industry, mastering the art through a combination of horticultural skill and artistic flair. Liang’s journey in flower arrangement started in 1978 when he landed a job at Beijing’s Zizhuyuan Park, known for its scenic beauty and diverse plant life.
Initially, Liang’s work involved laying concrete, plastering walls, and other maintenance work. However, his role eventually led him to the park’s horticultural division, where he learned the importance of understanding the growth and habits of flowers. He was impressed by how experienced staff members carefully tended to the plants, nurturing them with meticulous watering and fertilization, and pruning them into their best possible shape.
As he observed, Liang realized that the trade of flower arrangement brought joy to the public. Inspired, he began to hone his skills, eventually becoming a master of the art.
In the 1990s, Liang was given the opportunity to arrange flowers for Tian’anmen Square. He and his colleagues were tasked with delivering different themes and patterns every year, which required them to work with senior staff members to tackle problems and deliver refined floral artworks.
These challenging opportunities allowed Liang to quickly upgrade his skills and understanding of the art. In the early 2000s, Liang began to focus on traditional flower arrangement studies, which eventually led to him being invited to arrange flowers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
For the Olympic awards ceremony, Liang chose to use moonflower as the main flower in the bouquet. Moonflower symbolizes flourishing and prosperity, and is usually arranged in bouquets of nine, which is homonymous with the Chinese word meaning everlasting. Liang also included Reineckia carnea, fragrant plantain lily, and hypericum in the bouquets, with six flowers used in each bouquet to suggest a smooth ride.
The bouquet-making process was rigorous and complicated, according to Liang. There was no room for negligence in any step, and every leaf and blossom had to be examined before being taken out of the cold store. Liang checked each bouquet before signing off on it being packaged in a box, ensuring that nothing would come off when the athletes waved them over their heads.
Decades of experience with flowers have enabled Liang to deliver splendid floral artworks and be named an inheritor of traditional Chinese flower arrangement by the China Flower Arrangement Association in 2013. Liang believes that traditional Chinese flower arrangement places more focus on the expression of mood and the personalized meaning of the materials used than its Western counterpart.
Liang’s dedication to the art of flower arrangement has allowed him to become a master of the craft. His meticulous attention to detail and willingness to learn from experienced staff members have set him apart, and his creations continue to bring joy and beauty to people all over the world.
According to Wang Lianying, a flower arrangement artist with the China Flower Arrangement Association, modern Chinese garden design and landscaping is heavily influenced by Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) artists who placed more weight on naturalism, which promoted asymmetrical beauty. This preference for naturalism is reflected in the way Chinese flower arrangement is practiced today, where it is more about showcasing the natural beauty of plants rather than creating something artificial.
Wang believes that symmetry, with straight columns and lines, looks rigid and unnatural. Instead, she promotes asymmetry and is strongly against tying flowers up with knots. However, she emphasizes that naturalism does not mean arranging flowers chaotically or prosaically. Botanical principles must still be followed to ensure that the arrangement looks natural.
Liang, a flower arrangement artist who worked at Zizhuyuan Park for over four decades, has been a driving force in restoring the ancient art of Chinese flower arrangement. Since his retirement in 2017, he has continued to practice and spread the beauty of the art through competitions, exhibitions, and lectures.
Apart from imparting technical skills, Liang emphasizes the importance of love and respect towards plants. He believes that pruning should not hinder the growth of the plant or deprive it of water for the sake of visual effect. Liang also stresses the need to make the best of flowers to avoid waste.
Liang hopes that his efforts will encourage more people to pay attention to the art and study it. He believes that the art of traditional Chinese flower arrangement has its own unique characteristics, which should be studied, retained, imitated, and learned from. Liang and his counterparts in the field are constantly trying to bring modern elements to the art form while still drawing on the essence of the traditional flower arrangement concept.
“I will strive to draw the essence of the traditional flower arrangement concept and combine it with people’s life nowadays, so that the art form can flourish while better serving the public,” Liang says.