WORDS BY Jenna Lynn Cody
PHOTOS BY Artsy Vibes, César Gaviriam, Niccole Lim, Alisa Anton, Natasha Welingkar, Rebecca Matthews
Taiwan is an island with a huge variety of flowers. Orange daylilies blanket the east coast mountains in late summer. Calla lilies draw visitors to Yangmingshan in early spring, competing with the kapok trees flowering in Tainan. Flowers are also culturally and historically significant in Taiwan. For example, Tung blossoms are important to Hakka people who live in Yangmei (楊梅) and Gukeng (古坑). (Read More: Flower Viewing in Taipei: Three Routes Recommended for Couples, Friends, and Families)
Since flowers play such an important role in Taiwanese life, it’s no surprise that a culture of flower etiquette exists in Taiwan. Birthdays, weddings, opening a business and funerals all come with special rules surrounding what flowers may be sent and why. For visitors and residents, such knowledge may not only be an interesting way to better understand local culture, but also potentially useful as one builds lasting business and social relationships. (Read More: Do in Taiwan as the Taiwanese do! Seven Taiwan Taboos worth knowing about )
Sending Birthday Flowers
The literal meaning of “kalanchoe” in Mandarin translates to “longevity flower”, owing to their slow growth and long blooming period. It’s therefore a clear choice to congratulate someone on their birthday.
The rohdea, or “sacred lily”, is an evergreen that is a popular birthday choice for its name in Mandarin, which means “evergreen” (literally “ten thousand years of green”), and can also mean “young forever”.
Sending Wedding Flowers
One of the best flowers you can send to congratulate a couple on their wedding is the rose. And with red roses would be an astute choice inasmuch as red symbolizes good fortune as well as romantic love. You may wish to choose a variety without prickles (thorns), as thorny stems may connote unhappiness to some.
Not to be confused with the more common daylily, true lilies are popular wedding flowers as their name calls to mind a Chinese idiom meaning “happily together for a hundred years” (bainian haohe / 百年好合). They also symbolize pure and innocent love.
Sending Flowers For Business Events
In Taiwan, it’s especially common to send flowers to mark the grand opening of a business. Peonies are a popular choice as they are symbols of wealth and abundance for their luscious petals, refined scent, and because they are hardy perennials.
As with the poinsettia, the crepe myrtle is popular, for it is both red and long-lived. In fact, an old name for crepe myrtle in Chinese is Bairihong (百日紅), meaning “red for a hundred days”.
Sending “Get Well Soon” Flowers
Carnations represent blessings or warm wishes, and are therefore popular as wedding and Mother’s Day flowers, as well as flowers that you may send to a friend or acquaintance who is ill. Light colors, such as pink, purple and yellow, are good choices as they convey a message of friendship and affection.
Also known as “gypsophila”, baby’s breath is a gentle flower that connotes caring and purity of emotion. It pairs well with carnations when sending “get well soon” arrangements.
Sending Sympathy Flowers
Chrysanthemums mean a sad farewell in Taiwan. White chrysanthemums in particular are symbols of mourning in not only Taiwan, but also Japan and China. Sending white chrysanthemums for a funeral is most suitable, it can be paired with yellow chrysanthemums as well, for a solemn ambiance. Colorful chrysanthemum arrangements, however, must be avoided. They have a happier meaning than is appropriate to the occasion. Red, especially, must not be included.
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This article is reproduced under the permission of TAIPEI. Original content can be found at the website of Taipei Travel Net (www.travel.taipei/en).