Chinese floral arrangements are traditionally made for temple offerings and occasionally for wedding receptions, festival days like Chinese New Years and Mid Autumn Festival. Chinese floral arrangements aren't typically found in floral shops. It is more commonplace for friends or relatives who have studied the art as a hobby to offer them as homemade gifts and even to give simple teachings. East Pavilion is pleased to have a home tutorial by Lancy Kam who gave us some tips on how to make a festival arrangement. She prepared two arrangements: a simple easy arrangement and an intermediate one, see below for both DIY arrangements.
- a vase or two
- red envelope (optional)
- spike frogs to hold the stems in place, example HERE
- flowers used in this tutorial are: red berry branches, and mixed greens for the intermediate arrangement.
Additional Information on the Art of Chinese Floral Arrangements:
As an art form, Chinese flower arrangement began during the Northern and Southern Dynasties when Buddhism spread into China, bringing its custom of offering flowers at temple altars. By the Five Dynasties (907-960 A.D.) Emperor Li Hou Tsu had made the floral art an imperial affair by holding an annual flower arrangement exhibition at his palace. This event was to mark the rise of court flower arrangement.
The Sung Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), with its literati paintings, was the flourish of literati flower arrangement. By the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.), the art was practiced widely amongst the populace, used in homes and during special festive occasions. A burgeoning number of Chinese floral arrangers had perfected techniques placing equal weight on beauty, structure, and meaning, laying the foundations of an Oriental art form which would spread to Japan, Korea, and even Europe and the Americas.
Naturalism continued to play the main role in Chinese flower arrangement, however. One of the great exponents of the art, Yuan Hung-Tao, once wrote, “As for balance, do not arrange the blossoms too chaotically, not too prosaically. At most two or three varieties in one composition-all short, sparse, and thick, but not to extremes. Avoid symmetry, straight columns, and lines, and above all, don’t tie up the flowers with knots. Follow botanical principles; the appearance should be natural like...an essay that flows without constructions and rigid conclusions. If branches are parallel and colors but red and white, is the arrangement not like the trees before the magistrate’s court or the inscriptions on grave stones?”
The most important element in Chinese floral art nevertheless remained to be the line. Unlike the prevailing Western artistic maxim of “mass over line,” Chinese flower arrangements stressed the linear and calligraphic. Consequently, as the arrangement of followers in the vase conformed to design of a well-executed Chinese painting, so the twigs and branches followed the balanced order of major and subordinate lines. The flower itself, its stalk and leaves, not only contributed to the linear character of the work, but also added meaning to the attitudes of the twigs employed.
Description on this page is provided by the Chinese Floral Arts Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC.
Prepare the flowers by culling broken or bruised looking elements. Cut the bottom of the stems at a 45 degree angle to allow for better absorption of water.
Add main branches to the vase. We have used a metal floral frog at the base of the Transit Vase. The metal spikes at the base give you more control in position the stems. Chinese floral arrangements often emphasize the strong lines of branches so the frog is a necessity.
Lancy used the two sizes of the Transit Vase, the tall and wide. The vase comes in two parts, the mouth-blown ceramic bottom and the removable wooden sleeve. The slot in the sleeve allows for adjustment of some of the branches to angle into different compositions. Lancy likes to use rule of 1/3rd and 2/3rds proportions, meaning that in relation to the vase, she likes to avoid a symmetrical height between the vase and top of the stem.
You can achieve a fuller look with simple branches by pairing two vases together. Each arrangement can be used separately for either a table of console but create a lovely cascading of levels when grouped together.
For the intermediate level arrangement, Lancy added a few dried greens from her own personal collection. Since they are not the feature and aren't used in large proportions, she suggest using what you can find seasonally at your florists.
Arranging the flowers take some time to cut and check, cut and recheck. She uses the slot in the Transit Vase to angle stems downward to create a gracefully cascading appearance.
Once the red berry composition is complete, she adds a few green leaves to the centre to create a fuller appearance between the branches. Lancy trims the leaves shorter so that the red berry remains the primary display. For a festive touch, we've added a red pocket in the mix, see below.