Winter is in its final stages right now in Yunnan, temperatures warming everywhere, and to herald the coming spring primroses and magnolias are already blooming. With 158 varieties in a host of bright colors, the primrose grows all over the province. The magnolia is known as the ‘jade orchid’ (yulan in Chinese), because the fragrance is similar to an orchid’s and the flower color, and that of budding leaves, looks like jade. Fresh magnolia flowers can be eaten and are believed to be a remedy against a cold.
These are two of the ‘eight famous flowers’ in Yunnan’s broad floral inventory. Another two, the rough gentian and the meconopsis, only grow in the mountains of the northwest. The graceful rough gentian has a bell-like flower, usually blue or light purple, while the meconopsis resembles a poppy and comes in various colors. Both these flowers bloom in early autumn.
Another flower, the orchid, is prized for its graceful appearance and its fragrance. Yunnan has more varieties of orchid than the rest of the world and different types bloom at different seasons. The lily, favored as a house decoration for its elegance, has loosely packed petals and so is viewed as a symbol of unity and sincere cooperation. Consequently, it is a popular wedding gift.
The last two famous flowers are the rhododendron and the camellia. These also come in a range of colors, bloom in spring and can be found in the high plateaus and mountains throughout Yunnan. For their Flower Festival the 8th day of the second lunar month the Yi in Dayao county, Chuxiong prefecture make bouquets of these flowers to decorate their homes, fields, doorways, festival ground tents and even each other. On the same day, the Naxi celebrate Sanduo Festival, honoring their hero gad at his temple and then walk up the hill to pose for photos in front of the grand, centuries-old camellia tree at the entrance to Yufeng Temple.