Saturday, November 09, 2013

Chrysanthemums in Korea - More than a Pretty Flower

 On the way back down from the Bongjeongsa Temple, we stopped for a few minutes to look at the Chrysanthemum Festival located just before the main entry gate to the temple forest. Around this time of year, festivals for this ancient of flower (Chrysanthemums were cultivated in this region of Asia for over 3,000 years) dot the Korean landscape. Closely related to the chamomile flower, the leaves and flowers of the chrysanthemum are still used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The tea I sampled was tasty and a welcome free treat on a cool morning. Chrysanthemums are also used to flavor a type of rice wine known as gukhwaju. A late-blooming flower, chrysanthemums are often used as offerings on Buddhist altars. Symbolic of the yang energy, it is seen as good luck. Although the original chrysanthemums were yellow, hence its name etymology of "chrys" meaning golden and "anthemion" meaning flower.  When reading more about the symbolism of Chrysanthemums, I found it interesting to read that the white mums are associated with lamentation, death and grief. The Japanese see the chrysanthemum as a symbol of the sun, with the unfolding of the petals to represent perfection.

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