While the Western culture arranges flowers to create a decorative composition, paying more attention to flowers' colors and amount, Japanese artists arrange flowers to create a harmony of a linear construction, rhythm and color. They also keep in mind the meaning of each particular flower and arrange flowers to create the harmony of flower essences. Flowers are not only an important part of the ikebana art, but also an important part of their culture and life. Drawings and paintings of flowers are used to adorn clothes, furniture and family symbols or crests. Many Japanese have an alcove or a place, decorated with flowers and plants to show the changing of the seasons. Japanese people often take field tours to see and admire flowers and trees in different seasons.
Here are some of the meanings of certain flowers to the Japanese:
A lotus flower of midsummer is a symbol of perfection, truth and immortality (never dying). Roots come from muddy pools and the flower always emerges fresh and clean. Buddhism uses this symbol for the Buddha's life - born in the problems and darkness of society, he grew to become pure and truthful, suggesting that a pure and lovely spirit can lift itself above the worldliness to live in a peaceful serenity. Hence, the notion of peace and calm appears in lotus.
Plum blossoms suggest a contrast between the age and youth (the opposition lies in the age of the old trunks and young green leaves and fresh flowers). The Japanese interestingly associate these factors with an idea that in spite of the age, charm, joy and happiness, the youth can always rise anew.
The Japanese call peony a "flower of twenty days" for its short blooming season. It is especially favored by the upper classes and is considered a symbol of prosperity, wealth and becoming rich.
The meaning of a morning glory is mortality due to its short life, though the beauty of its brief blooming is a joy to be remembered.
A chrysanthemum is a flower of autumn. It is a symbol of longevity or a long life, since it blooms longer than the majority of flowers. It is used at gatherings, celebrating a man's retirement from a public office, as it suggests a life of well-deserved ease.
There is no room to describe all meanings of flowers. Nonetheless, the fact is that the Japanese masterfully combine all those meanings of flowers and their forms to create a harmonic and meaningful composition. The styles of ikebana are diverse and depend on various schools' instructions and on the imagination of each creator as well.
Ikebana is so famous worldwide, that special international exhibitions are held in various world locations, and visiting them, you will have a chance to admire works of different artists. One such exhibition is held annually at the Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod at Metcalfe, Ottawa. The program includes an illustrated lecture about Japanese gardens, their styles and history, the exhibition "Kaleidoscope", reception at the Japanese residence and many other captivating shows. The program changes annually and every year presents the visitors with more and more fascinating events.