Micro-Season: “The Chrysanthemum Flowers”(2022)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Chrysanthemum Flowers”.  This is the second micro-season of the mini-season of Cold Dew.  The micro-seasons within Cold Dew are:

  • The Geese Arrive (Oct 08 – Oct 12)
  • The Chrysanthemum Flowers (Oct 13 – Oct 17) 
  • The Grasshopper Sings (Oct 18 – Oct 22)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

As a way to celebrate this season, we will learn about the chrysanthemum flower, explore its cultural significance, and then read haiku by Basho, Issa, and Buson.   


The Chrysanthemum Flower

The Chrysanthemum, or mum, is a perennial flowering plant part of the Asteraceae family and the genus Chrysanthemum. There are about 40 different species of Chrysanthemums.  These plants are primarily native to northeastern Europe, although they are very common in East Asia.(1) 

Many species of Chrysanthemum are grown as fall-blooming ornamental plants.  They are easy to grow also long as they receive full sun and are planted in good soil with adequate drainage and air circulation.(2) Although the plants enjoy the full sun while growing, the flowers last longer if they are moved to the shadier spots after they bloom.  Chrysanthemums usually flower in early September.  

The Chrysanthemums flower, which can range in color from white to purple, may contain both disk and ray flowers within the flower heads.(1)  Disk flowers are tubular flowers in the center of a composite flower.  Ray flowers are the flowers around the margin of the flower head. 

Image of disk and ray flower from https://www.backyardnature.net/fl_comps.htm
Image courtesy of BackyardNature.net.

Chrysanthemum’s Cultural Significance

China

The Chrysanthemum was first cultivated as a flowering herb in China in the 15th century B.C.(3) Shortly after cultivation, it became a part of the cultural narrative when it joined the Four Gentlemen.(5) The Four Gentlemen, or Four Noble Ones, are the plum blossom, the orchid, bamboo, and the chrysanthemum. These four plants were frequent subjects in traditional Chinese ink and wash paintings. Each one of these gentlemen represents moral character traits promoted in Confucianism.  The plum blossom represents inner beauty and humility under adverse conditions, and the orchid represents beauty, grace, and nobility. The bamboo represents values of cultivation and integrity in which one yields but does not break, and the chrysanthemum represents the “virtue to withstand all adversities”(6).

Japan

The Chrysanthemum made its way to Japan in the Nara period (710 – 794 AD) and gained significant popularity during the Edo Period (1603-1867).(4) During this time, Japanese culture was heavily influenced by Chinese culture, and the imperial family was so taken by this flower that it incorporated the chrysanthemum into the emperor’s crest. The emperor himself then became known as the “chrysanthemum throne”.(7)

The chrysanthemum still holds a prominent place in Japanese culture as its likeness is used on currency, clothing, and on their passports. There is even an award called the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, which is the highest honor someone can receive.(7)

Some Fun Facts About Chrysanthemum

  • Mums are considered an emblem of youth in Chinese and Japanese culture. 
  • It’s said that a single petal placed at the bottom of a glass of wine enhances longevity.
  • In the language of flowers, a red mum means “I love you” and a white mum means innocence, purity, and pure love.
  • In the United States, the chrysanthemum is November’s birth flower. In Japan, the chrysanthemum is the flower for the month of September. 
  • Japan’s National Chrysanthemum Day (“Kiku no Sekku”) is also called the Festival of Happiness. It is celebrated on September 9th. The holiday was established in 910 AD when the first chrysanthemum show was held.

These fun facts were retrieved from the Farmer’s Almanac and Owlcation.

Chrysanthemum photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto on Pexels.com
Chrysanthemum photo by Susanne Jutzeler, suju-foto
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A Few Seasonal Haiku

The World Kigo Database tells us that the Chrysanthemum or Kiku is an autumn seasonal word.  There are many variations on kiku including kiku kuyoo, or the memorial ritual for chrysanthemums. 

The memorial ritual for chrysanthemums is held on October 18 at the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo.  During this ritual, people present chrysanthemum flowers to the altar of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. After the offering has been made, they will take a chrysanthemum that has been left by someone else and bring it home. This flower becomes an “amulet for warding off evil influence in the coming year.”(8)

Now, let’s now read some haiku!

Basho

drinking morning tea
the monk becomes peaceful -
chrysanthemum flowers
(Translation by Gabi Greve)
chrysanthemum fragrance—
in the garden, the sole
of a worn-out sandal
(Translation by Addiss)

Issa

the smell of sake
around about dusk...
chrysanthemum
(Translated by David G Lanoue)
their many colors
fade so soon...
chrysanthemums
(Translated by David G Lanoue)

Buson

lighting the lantern —
the yellow chrysanthemums
lose their colour
(Translated by Robert Hass)

Natsume Sōseki

Before the white chrysanthemum
the scissors hesitate
   a moment.
(Translated by Soiku Shigematsu)

A Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references the chrysanthemum.

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  

Chrysanthemum Photo by Pok Rie on Pexels.com
Chrysanthemum photo by Pok Rie
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Resources:

  1. “Chrysanthemum”; Brittanica
  2. “Chrysanthemum: Growin, Care, & Design Tips”; Garden Design
  3. “Chrysanthemum”; Farmer’s Almanac
  4. “Chrysanthemum”; Wikipedia
  5. “The ‘Four Gentlemen’”; Art of the Brush
  6. “Four Gentlemen”; Chinaonlinemuseum.com
  7. “How Did the Chrysanthemum Become the Symbol of the Japanese Emperor?”; Owlcation
  8. “Chrysanthemum (kiku)”; World Kigo Database

Basho’s haiku were retrieved from the World Kigo Database.  Issa’s haiku were retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s HaikuGuy.com. Buson’s haiku were retrieved from BreathHaiku. Natsume Sōseki haiku retrieved from Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Sōseki by Sōiku Shigematsu, (New York, Weatherhill, 1994).

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41 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Chrysanthemum Flowers”(2022)

Add yours

  1. In elementary school, the word chrysanthemum knocked me out of the spelling bee championship. You can bet that I’ve known how to spell it ever since.
    I love the Buson piece about the yellow flowers losing their colour.

    1. I can understand the spelling bee! I must have spelled chrysanthemum wrong 100 times writing this. Thank goodness for spellcheck! You also have the start to a interesting senryu here. My first draft is:

      elementary school
      the word is chrysanthemum
      I’m out

  2. So inspiring story of Chrysanthemum flowers to read ✍️😍Malaysia having these flowers so many varieties and
    these dried flowers we will make tea and drink hot seasons 🌷🙏👍🏻 it’s majestic flowers and take bath times
    People add in bathtub also 🛁 so many countries it grow as garden flowers 👏👌thank you for sharing 🌷🙏♥️

    1. Hi Nancy, This is great. I enjoy imagery and then the suggested memorial stone caretaker who returns every season to change out the flowers. I have made a complete story in my head about what is happening here!

      1. Hi Mark,
        Your story is spot on. I walk by this stone nearly every day. There is a memorial stone caretaker, who changes out the flowers with the various seasons. Right now, there is both chrysanthemums and sunflowers. Who knows what the next season will bring? Maybe the flowers will coincide with the micro-seasons. ~nan

      1. Overall they look temperamental after a look. I think the moral of the story for me is don’t pay too much for them cuz they will die anyways! 😹Thanks a lot
        🙌🏽

  3. white chrysanthemums
    delightfully shortened but
    mum’s the word on that
    My attempt at 5/7/5 and happy to have finally made it here, Mark.

  4. My first thought at seeing the word “Chrysanthemum” was of the tea and also as a flower head that one can use to decorate a dish as a finishing touch. I like the Haikus some of the other commenters came up with.

    1. Hi Melanie, I have never tried chrysanthemum tea. I may have to search that out. I will agree that the contributors haiku are great. I hope all is well!

  5. re:
    Before the white chrysanthemum
    the scissors hesitate
    a moment.

    It’s not by Buson despite others attributing it, but Shiki’s novelist friend:

    白菊にしばしたゆたふはさみかな

    shiragiku ni shibashi tayutou hasami kana

    Natsume Sōseki

    Zen Haiku: Poems and Letters of Natsume Sōseki
    by Sōiku Shigematsu
    (New York, Weatherhill, 1994)

    see: https://terebess.hu/zen/mesterek/zen-haiku.pdf

    is it scissors
    that hesitate for a while
    white chrysanthemum

    version: Alan Summers

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