Often referred to by their nickname “mums,” chrysanthemums are popular, vibrant flowers that come in a rainbow of shades. They originated in East Asia and were mostly used as a culinary herb initially. This edible flower was eaten raw or brewed into medicinal tea. Today in the U.S., chrysanthemums add a gorgeous pop of color to many yards, gardens, and bouquets. In fact, they’re known for being long-lasting cut flowers, which makes them perfect to give to someone special so they can enjoy them for several days! Named for their golden color—“chrys- meaning golden and anthemon- meaning flower”—the flower is now commonly cultivated in white, yellow, pink, purple, red, and orange varieties. Two-tone chrysanthemums are especially eye-catching!
Here at KIM+ONO, we celebrate the chrysanthemum for its botanical beauty and admire the plentiful appearance of its petals. Several of our floral kimono feature the chrysanthemum, so today in the journal, we’re exploring the chrysanthemum symbolism as well as its association with well-being and healing.
Heritage and tradition are centered in each and every one of our kimono robe designs. With family heritage that’s rooted in both China and Japan, sisters and co-founders Renee and Tiffany take their lived experiences with authentic kimono and combine it with a modern design aesthetic to create every original kimono robe design. By incorporating chrysanthemums into our silk and charmeuse kimono robes, we wish to impart the rich meaning of the flower to anyone who wears one of our pieces. Let’s dive deeper into the multifaceted symbolism of this flower.
What the Chrysanthemum Represents in China
In China, chrysanthemums represent not only good fortune, but also longevity and youthfulness. The Smithsonian describes this flower as a “symbol of late summer and early autumn, and it represents the ninth lunar month. It is a symbol of longevity because of its health-giving properties.” The flower’s association with lucky number nine dates back to antiquity: there was an ancient Chinese ritual of drinking chrysanthemum wine on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in order to promote long lives. Today, the chrysanthemum wine tradition has become embedded in the history of the Double Ninth Festival in China, where it’s typically celebrated in October. But drinking up the healing power of chrysanthemum isn’t limited to this festival—chrysanthemum tea is popular all year for its association with good health.
Chrysanthemums have deep meaning in Chinese art. According to a guide by the USC Pacific Asia Museum, chrysanthemums—along with orchids, plum blossoms and bamboo—make up “si junzi (meaning the ‘Four Gentlemen’ or ‘Four Noble Qualities’) to represent the integrity and humility of the scholar.” It’s no wonder that artists and scholars in China have historically revered the chrysanthemum and celebrated its beauty. The “Four Gentlemen” are widely depicted in Chinese art, particularly in bird-and-flower paintings and ink wash painting. The chrysanthemum not only has significance in China, but also in other Asian countries such as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.
Meaning of the Chrysanthemum in Japan
In Japan, chrysanthemums are known as “kiku.” In fact, our Silk Kiku Kimono Robe is named after the Japanese word! The flower holds such great meaning in Japan that it became its official Imperial Seal and appears on passports today. Furthermore, the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum is an extremely rare honor bestowed by the emperor on a small group of Japanese citizens since it was established in 1876. Chrysanthemums are ubiquitous in the art, decor, and textiles of Japan, which goes to show how important of a national symbol it is. Interestingly, although many may believe that the cherry blossom or sakura is the official national flower of Japan, it’s actually the chrysanthemum!
Similar to China, Japan regards the chrysanthemum as a symbol of longevity. Japanese culture also associates the flower with orderliness and perfection due to the way the petals open in perfect order. The Double Ninth Festival is known as the Chrysanthemum Festival in Japan, and it’s celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the Gregorian calendar (i.e.September) instead of the lunar calendar. These autumnal festivities include drinking chrysanthemum sake and setting up grand sculptural chrysanthemum displays.
Now that we’ve touched on chrysanthemums symbolism in parts of East Asia, let’s move on to the meaning of this flower in America.
According to this floriography guide by the University of Illinois, the chrysanthemum represents truth and friendship here in the States. Chrysanthemum gifts are a fitting way to let friends know that you value your relationship with them and that you appreciate what they bring to your life. In connection to its medicinal roots in Asia, the flower is also known as a symbol of well-being. Chrysanthemum tea is enjoyed in the U.S. for its symbolic healing power. A perennial plant, chrysanthemums come back every autumn as early as mid-summer and blossoming as late as early winter, depending on the climate zone. These hardy plants reliably return each year, which is why they can also symbolize rebirth or reincarnation.
Did you know that pink and orange dual-tone chrysanthemums are featured in Barack Obama’s official portrait by artist Kehinde Wiley? The life-size painting in the National Portrait Gallery includes chrysanthemums as a reference to the official flower of the city of Chicago, the place where Barack grew his career and started his life with attorney, author and future first lady Michelle Obama (née Robinson). Chicago is also the birthplace of the Chrysanthemum Society of America.
While the nuances of the symbolism behind chrysanthemums may vary between different countries, you can make this beautiful flower all your own by wearing it with intention and tapping into its symbolic healing powers.
You can wear chrysanthemums and evoke the essence of its symbolic healing powers—the key is intention. When we design kimono robes with chrysanthemum patterns, our hope is that we can share the rich meaning of this flower with you. Any time is right for wearing chrysanthemums, especially when you want to channel health and well-being.
Our Coral Chrysanthemum Long Kimono Robe features warm-hued, eye-popping blossoms against a darker background. We think the contrast is lovely. The flowing drape graces every inch of you, and it’s offered in plus size and in the short length as well.
For women silk robe, look no further than the Silk Kiku Long Kimono Robe. The flowers are gorgeously oversized in this pattern so that the eye can zoom in on the beautiful details of every single petal. A silk robe short length option is also offered in several gorgeous shades.
If you’re looking for the elegance of real silk but also want the ease of washing your piece at home, we’ve got you covered with the Washable Silk Kiku Long Kimono Robe. With a slightly heavier fabric weight of 22mm (as opposed to the regular silk’s 16mm) and the ease of care, the washable version is well on its way to become a staple item in your wardrobe. It’s also available in curve sizing as well as in the short length.
No matter which one you choose, the symbolic healing powers of the chrysanthemum are always one intentional breath away from being available to you. We hope that we’ve inspired you to lean into the rich meaning of this beautiful flower!