September 27, 2016 – An opening ceremony for a joint exhibition on chrysanthemum art was held in the quadrangle west of the Gate of Thriving Imperial Clan (Longzong men). Like the peony flower exhibition this spring, this exhibition consists of a rich display of live chrysanthemum flowers under the title “The Autumn Flower: Fragrant Chrysanthemums from Kaifeng” and a complementary exhibition entitled “The Palace Museum Chrysanthemum Art Exhibition” in the galleries at the Palace of Eternal Longevity (Yongshou gong) and the Palace of Prolonging Happiness (Yanxi gong).
The multi-site exhibition is a collaboration of the Palace Museum; the Kaifeng municipal government; Millennium City Park Co., Ltd. (Kaifeng); and the administration of the Beihai Park (Beijing). Director Shan Jixiang of the Museum; Ms. Sun Xiaohong, vice-mayor of Kaifeng; and Mr. Wang Zhonghai, vice-director of the Beijing Municipal Administration Center of Parks spoke at the opening ceremony. Deputy-director Lou Wei of the Museum served as the master of ceremonies.
More than 30,000 pots and jardinières of chrysanthemum flowers are displayed throughout the Museum, particularly in the quadrangles to the south of the Gate of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing men) and to the west of the Gate of Thriving Imperial Clan, the garden of the Palace of Compassion and Tranquility (Cining gong huayuan), and the courtyards of the Palace of Longevity and Health (Shoukang gong), the Palace of Eternal Longevity, and the Palace of Prolonging Happiness. The chrysanthemums were provided by the Kaifeng municipal government and Beihai Park. The display revives the Qing dynasty tradition of cultivating and viewing chrysanthemums in the Forbidden City. The display is scheduled to conclude on the 16th of October.
The complementary exhibition of chrysanthemums in art features 215 pieces and sets of works drawn from the Palace Museum collection. The galleries include an assortment of art forms, including painting, textiles, and other exquisite artistic mediums. The themed exhibition ends on the 27th of November.
Neighboring the Palace Museum and formerly serving as an imperial garden of the Qing dynasty, Beihai Park enjoys a time-honored history of chrysanthemum cultivation. As one of the organizing partners, the Park has contributed an array of chrysanthemums, installation shelving, and jardinières for two temporary parterres in the Palace of Eternal Longevity and the Palace of Prolonging Happiness.
Chrysanthemums are native to China. The city of Kaifeng in Henan Province is one of many places celebrated for chrysanthemum cultivation. That city was a center of cultivation since the Song dynasty (960-1279). Chrysanthemum flowers were planted indoors as early as the Han dynasty (206 BCE- 220 CE) and were widely planted in courtyards during the Jin dynasty (265-420). The Tang dynasty (618-907) saw the exportation of chrysanthemums overseas. With the development of chrysanthemum horticulture technology throughout the following millennium, the chrysanthemum flowers had included over 200 varieties by the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
With various forms and a diversity of sumptuous colors, the chrysanthemum has become one of China’s symbolic flowers. Throughout three millennia of chrysanthemum cultivation, China has developed a “chrysanthemum culture” that encompasses the cultivation, appreciation, culinary art, literature, and painting of chrysanthemums. Aficionados of traditional Chinese culture cherish the flower for its ability to resist the cold. The flower is considered one of the Four Gentlemen—along with the orchid, plum blossom, and bamboo—that represent the paragon of nobility.
Chrysanthemums were displayed in the imperial palace for the emperor and his consorts to appreciate during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties. The imperial nursery—the south imperial garden—was located immediately outside the west gate of the Forbidden City. According to palace archives, during the Kangxi reign (1662-1722) a variety of chrysanthemums were submitted from the nursery and displayed to decorate the palace every ninth month of the lunar calendar when the flowers were in full bloom. During the late Qing period, a large number of the finest chrysanthemums were displayed in the courtyard of the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian) where emperors of the late Qing lived and worked.