China’s Passion for the Peony

Pearl S. Buck loved the peony and so did the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi (1835 – 1908).  The Chinese Peony is the Paeonia lactiflora. Along with the plum blossom, the peony is a traditional floral symbol of Mongolia and China. The peony comes as a shrub and a tree. There is even an Ode to Peonies.

The peony is also known as the “flower of riches and honor” and is used symbolically in Chinese art. In 1903, the Qing Dynasty made the peony the national flower. Today, there is no national flower in the PRC, but the tree peony can be regarded as a national favorite. Taiwan—on the other hand—has named the plum blossom as the national flower for that island territory.

The World Health Organization reports that the dried root of the Radix Paeonia (red peony) is used to treat dementia, headache, vertigo, spasms of the calf muscles, liver disease, and allergies and as an anticoagulant. (pg 198, World Health Organization)  These uses have been described in pharmacopoeias and in traditional systems of medicine.

Traditional Chinese medicine claims that drinking Bai Mudan (white peony tea) helps dispel heat within the body and enhances immune function while protecting the heart and blood vessels.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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6 Responses to China’s Passion for the Peony

  1. […] China’s Passion for the Peony ( […]

  2. […] China’s Passion for the Peony ( […]

  3. Edmund says:


  4. karolyn says:


  5. Behind the Story says:

    When I studied Chinese brush painting, we had to master plum blossoms, orchids and chrysanthemums before we could learn to paint peonies. (I have an example on my blog, on the October post: “Chinese Brush Painting.”)

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