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Why Is Selecting China's National Flower So Difficult?
The peony was the top choice for "national flower" in a referendum held throughout China in 1994. But no final decision has ever been made and not everyone agrees with that choice -- or even if one flower should represent a country acknowledged as the source of 85 percent of the world's flower species. Other top vote getters: Orchid, lotus, chrysanthemum, and plum blossom.

Most Chinese people don't know which flower is the Chinese national flower. The reporter recently interviewed some 50 passers-by at random near Xidan Plaza in the capital Beijing: One-third of the interviewees were not sure whether China has a national flower. However, over half knew the cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan. When asked "which flower should be selected as the national flower of China," 70 percent agreed it should be the peony.

Most interviewees held that as China has the national flag, national anthem and the national emblem, China ought to have a national flower that can reflect 5,000-year traditional Chinese culture, and remind foreigners of the Chinese nation.

According to an expert on flowers, some 100 countries in the world have national flowers. China is a country with an ancient civilization and a long-standing history, and also is recognized worldwide as "the origin of the world's garden" with 85 percent of the world's flower species originating in China.

It's really regrettable that China does not have its own national flower. Chen Junyu, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and professor with Beijing Forestry University, points out that 'national flower' is the symbol of a nation's spirit and selecting a 'national flower' can inspire people of all ethnic groups to love the country, promote noble sentiment, enhance national enterprising spirit and pride and encourage people to dedicate themselves to the construction of a powerful country and a peaceful home. Chen said selecting the 'national flower' is really conforming to the common aspirations of people at a time when people are enjoying the benefits of economic development.

According to Ms. Liu with the Chinese Flower Association, a motion was submitted by He Kang, ex-chairman of Chinese Flower Association, and others to the Second Session of the Eighth National People's Congress (NPC) in March 1994. In that motion, the deputies were urged to select a Chinese 'national flower' and listed detailed planning for the selection. In May 1994, the Ministry of Agriculture responded to the motion, ordering the Chinese Flower Association to organize a panel to establish specifications and candidates for suggestions on the "national flowers" and to answer questions from the public during the process.

The result of a massive-scale selection process was announced in December of 1994. Eighteen provinces and regions -- accounting for 58.06 percent -- agreed on "one country, one flower (peony)," 11 provinces and regions -- accounting for 35.48 percent -- agreed on "one country, four flowers (peony, lotus, chrysanthemum and plum blossom)," Anhui and Sichuan provinces also agreed on "one country, four flowers," but they prefer orchid to lotus. The selection panel agreed unanimously on peony as Chinese national flower, and suggested orchid (spring), lotus (summer), chrysanthemum (autumn) and plum (winter) be "flowers for four seasons of China." This results and detailed information were reported by the Ministry of Agriculture to the higher authority, and then submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for approval.

Eight years have passed by, but a 'national flower' is still not set. According to some relevant personnel, the current difficulty in the selection is similar with that in 1994: "one country, one flower," "one country, two flowers," or "one country, four flowers" are the main divergences. In the opinions of those supporting "one country, one flower," it is one flower that can symbolize China's unity and solidarity, and it's easy to remember and make a logo. And as most of provinces and regions agreed on "one country, one flower," the minority should be subordinate to the majority. However, there are still disagreements under the opinion of "one country, one flower" -- which should be selected, peony or plum blossom.

Chen Junyu put forward a concept of "one country, two flowers" as early as 1986, advocating both the plum blossom and the peony as the national flowers. Chen said "one country, two flowers" is echoing "one country, two systems." The plum blossom and the peony have corresponding characteristics: one grows in the south, another in the north; one is tall, another is short; one has pure soul and unyielding spirit never to bow to coldness, another is elegant and poised like a graceful young lady; one is the symbol of spiritual civilization, another is the symbol of material civilization. It is said that the ballots for plum blossom and peony amounted almost the same with other eight flowers in the selection of "The Chinese Top Ten Flowers" in 1987. However, some provinces and regions where flower-industry is developed such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Shenzhen, voted for "one country, four flowers" which means each season is symbolized by one flower and the 'national flowers' blossom all the year. It's difficult for "one flower" to represent a large China with vast territory.

Nevertheless, it seems that there are other reasons.

Some materials show that selecting a city flower was once promoted in a lot of Chinese cities from 1982 to 1987, and the final decisions were made by the municipal people's congress or municipal government. A total of 37 flowers were selected by 114 cities as their city flower. It sounds reasonable that different cities with different climates should have their own city-flowers. But many of these cities strongly recommended their city-flowers or province-flowers as national flower' during the selection, so it's not at all surprising that the selection of the national flower' was suspended On the other hand, as sources from the Chinese Flower Association pointed out, the experts disagree with each other. Whose idea can be the most authoritative?

Some countries in the world have selected their national flowers since the 18th Century, either by the public votes, or by the government, or in accordance with tradition. Relevant experts point out that the problems in the selection of the Chinese national flower' are not the lack of discussions or ballots, which could be confirmed in the massive participation of the public in the selection in 1994. However, it needs the final word to make the decision firm.

Some experts suggest the Chinese Flower Association, garden association, association of scenic park, academies of agriculture and forestry, and association of senior professors, as well as non-government organizations join hands in the selection work, and the National People's Congress make the final decision. According to Chen Junyu, the relevant department will make a determination this year and the formal selection will be held next year. Head of the State Forestry Administration, Zhou Shengxian, said the national flower, national tree, and national bird will be set in two years.

(光明日报[Guangming Daily], translated by Zhang Tingting for china.org.cn, May 13, 2002)

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