Hibiscus Haiku by Basho

In the twilight rain

these brilliant-hued hibiscus

A lovely sunset

Matsuo Basho

About the hibiscus plant

The hibiscus is a member of the mallow family of flowering plants.  It is a native to many tropical regions. The flowers of the hibiscus are large, trumpet shaped, and can come in a variety of colors.  Hibiscus flowers are often dried and used in teas. Served either hot or cold, hibiscus teas are known to have a slightly tart taste and are high in vitamin C.(1)

Symbolism

Perhaps it is because the hibiscus flower is so striking that it holds a lot of meaning for people.  However, the meaning of this flower varies depending on where you are in the world.

In North America, the hibiscus is a symbol of feminism.  In China, it represents prosperity and fame. It also represents softness and virginity.  In Hawaii, it is the State flower and a symbol of respect. While in South Korea, it is the national symbol and is said to represent immortality. Finally, in Japan, it means gentleness and it was often given to guests as a symbol of honor. (2,3)

About the poem

Every word counts in a haiku, and the cultural significance of the hibiscus was probably not lost on Basho. If we take this into account, how might this shift our understanding of this haiku? Take a moment to re-read the haiku knowing the symbolism behind the flower. Do you notice anything different?

I interpret this haiku as a poem of gratitude. A moment where everything is right in the world. The rain, the sunset, the hibiscus come together in an instant of peace. The gentle hibiscus becomes an offering of thanks to the earth and all its beings. Basho recognizes that it is an honor to be in that place at that time.

Hibiscus Flower
Hibiscus Flower

What are your reactions to this haiku? Do you think the symbolism of this flower played a part in the construction of this haiku? Or, do you think Basho was just capturing a moment in time?


Resources:

  1. Wikipedia- Hibiscus
  2. TattooSEO- What does a Hibiscus tattoo mean
  3. Garden Guides: The Meaning of a Hibiscus Flower

14 thoughts on “Hibiscus Haiku by Basho

Add yours

  1. Thanks for the post.
    To me the moment is captured and not only is it a celebration of the complexity of the life processes required to capture this one moment, it’s also an affirmation that the author is fully present and fortunate to be able to witness it.

  2. It’s such a beautiful flower!
    On reading the poem, I can imagine the scene, perhaps on a mountain=side. I don’t know the growing habits of Hibiscus but Basho uses the word ‘these’ so I’m guessing there are lots of them, creating that exquisite image of a sunset in the fading light of the evening. It does feel very peaceful – a moment that could happily go on forever.

    1. Hi Lesley, thank you for sharing! I have never seen hibiscus growing outside. It is much to cold where I live. But I can imagine how wonderful several of these trees may look when they are growing together. It is would definitely be worth stopping and admiring for a moment. Thanks again.

      1. You’re welcome Mark. 🙂
        I apologise for when my comments are sporadic – there are some days when I’m not online at all.

  3. A wonderful post! Orange seems to be the color this year. I have two blooms today… one shriveling up and one getting ready to curl. Seems there is always a new bud waiting in the wings!
    dwight

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