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Home History and Culture Chinese Peony
Chinese Peony
Learn Chinese - History and Culture
Tree peony (Mudan) and herbaceous peony (Shaoyao) are placed in the same genus, Paeonia, in the family Paeoniaceae. The leaves and flowers are similar, but the former is an arboreal plant with a permanent woody branch structure, while the latter is a perennial herbaceous plant with new growth each year from ground level. Before Qin Dynasty (221-206BC), there was no clear distinction between Mudan and Shaoyao. "Based on Shaoyao, a tree peony was initially called tree shaoyao" (Complete Annals by Zheng Qiao, the Song Dynasty, 960-1269 AD).

According to the Summary of Complete Annals, the cultivation Shaoyao can be traced to the periods of Xia Dynasty (22th-l7th century BC), Shang Dynasty (17th-llth century BC), Zhou Dynasty (1lth century-256 BC). Tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) and herbaceous peony (Paeonia lactiflora) both are the most beautiful and charming flowers and have prestigious reign in the flower world. Tree peony, Chinese National Flower, native to China, is known as "the King of flowers", whereas herbaceous peony is called as "the Queen of flowers". Tree peony has been the favorite flower from the imperial down to the common for more than 1500 years in Chinese history, whereas the cultivation history of Chinese herbaceous peony can go back to 2500 years ago.

Chinese people were enthralled by their beauty, a poet wrote, "Only the tree peony is worthy of being called the Beauty of the Empire. During its blooming time the whole capital city went berserk." "Horses and carriages were coming and going like crazy. Those who didn't go to see the flowers were feeling ashamed of themselves."

Present-day cultivates have tremendously varied characteristics resulting from the range of original species involved and from the range of original species involved and form the different ecological environments. Chinese peonies are the richest in number of cultivates with varied flower forms, colors and length of cultivation history in the world. Tree peony is also called as " Luoyang Flower " because of Luoyang's longest history of peony cultivation in the world. Now there are about one thousand varieties of tree peonies in Luoyang.

Chinese tree peony blossom over many years without a break, from a seedling aged 4-5 years to senescent plants aged over hundred years. In a normal year it takes 50-60 days from breaking of bud dormancy to blossoming. This period varies between different cultivators. Those blossoming early or with simpler flower forms take a shorter period, but late flower-in cultivars or those with higher rank flower forms take longer.

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