Zijing Liu 刘子菁
In traditional Chinese culture, the plum blossom (Meihua) symbolizes not only perseverance, hope, strength, beauty, purity, and elegance but also virtue. In modern times, the plum blossom has been used as a metaphor to symbolize five blessings (Wufu) for its five petals: happiness, luck, longevity, smoothness, and peace. If we pin the HNC in the center of a map, we will find plum blossoms around the campus. As such, the HNC stands in Nanjing like a flower budding in joy through the earth and breaking into waves of blossoms.
0.2km: Plum Blossom Metro
The closest plum blossoms to campus are by the Nanjing Metro station. You need to walk two hundred meters to the nearest Metro entrance –the Yunnan Road Metro station entrance – and there you will come across a red plum blossom shading the metro entry. Nanjing’s first subway line opened in 2005, and the red plum blossom began springing up all over the city around different stations. The plum blossom is not only the logo of the Nanjing Metro but also the city flower of Nanjing since 1982. More than 1,400 years ago (the Six Dynasties period in Chinese history), the residents of Nanjing deeply appreciated the vibrant beauty of the plum blossoms. This local appreciation continues today, as plum blossoms are a symbol of Nanjing’s rosy spirit and culture. One could even say that plum blossoms are the very essence of life in Nanjing, as the flower’s fragrance fills the city in late winter and early spring.
0.4km: Plum Blossom Cake
Plum blossom cake, duck blood, and vermicelli soup are the most famous traditional delicacies in Nanjing. To find such delicious treats, just turn right after exiting the HNC main entrance and walk down the street lined with phoenix trees. Just after traveling four hundred meters, there is a snack bar that has 4 stars on Dianping.com (Chinese Yelp) — Chu’s Plum Blossom Cake. Plum blossom cake is made in the shape of a plum blossom, so their appearance gives them their name. The cake is usually made of sticky rice, jam, nuts, and red bean paste, but one can choose different flavors by changing ingredients by replacing the red bean filling with purple sweet potato, sesame, or fruit stuffings. Once you sink your teeth into this cake perfuming the air – hot, soft, sweet, fresh, tasty – you cannot help but experience the depth of autumn. As Camus said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” To me, falling leaves are withering flowers, autumn light is spring glory, sweet cake is ripe cherries, and they sing a chorus that I never get sick of hearing.
2km: Plum Blossom Poems
“Yesterday the North Lake plum blossomed, but not full of branches.” The poem is said to have been written by Li Bai, a great genius who lived about 1,000 years ago. “North Lake” is now known as Xuanwu Lake in Nanjing, and it is just two kilometers away from HNC. Li Bai was held back by the chill of snowfall and stayed in Nanjing. That is why he went over the snow in search of plums. Today, we can only imagine the scent of the plums Li Bai indulged in at Xuanwu Lake, but luckily we can still appreciate Nanjing’s oldest plum tree there which is six hundred years old. In another poem about Nanjing, Li Bai painted a vivid picture of childhood where a boy on bamboo horseback plucks green plums for a girl. Like most children in China, the very first plum blossom poem I could recite was “A few plum twigs at the corner of the wall/ Blossoming all alone, defying the cold!” The lines were written down in Nanjing’s “Banshanyuan” by Wang Anshi, a statesman and poet of the Song Dynasty.
6km: Plum Blossom Mountain
Appreciating plum blossoms in Meihua Mountain (Plum Blossom Mountain) is a popular custom that has been included in the Nanjing Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Accordingly, Nanjing has held the Plum Blossom Festival there each year since 1996. Spring will come out of the snow and say “hi” with a smile when the plums effloresce. Spring, the sweetest season, runs with fervor into the woods of Meihua Mountain, igniting the colorful plum blossoms to bloom like fireworks, floating clouds, and a glowing sunset. It is one of the most beautiful sceneries in Nanjing; the incredible views attract thousands of people to take photos and videos and then share them online. It is six kilometers, about half an hour’s drive from HNC. When the plums blossom, there is no better gift to send to your friends than a juicy spring plum. We indeed cherish the plum blossoms – and our relationship with both nature and each other– even more in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
7km: Plum Blossom Makeup
The most beautiful legend about plum blossoms also happened in Nanjing. 1,400 years ago, a princess was resting under the eaves of a palace near a garden with plum trees. The wind blew plum petals around, and one drifted down on her forehead. The plum blossom was like a talented makeup artist who created a new type of makeup–plum blossom makeup–for the princess. The court ladies were impressed by the creative expression of makeup and started making copies of it.
Today, the palace has disappeared, and only the legend remains. However, we can find more plum blossom stories at the Nanjing Museum, which is seven kilometers from the HNC. Chinese people love plum blossoms and have personified their beauty in works of art for centuries. We can find plum blossoms in the museum’s treasures: paintings, calligraphy, porcelain, jade ware, lacquerware, embroidery, and so on. If these treasures could speak, they would definitely tell us countless plum blossom stories. If you are still not satisfied, you can find plum blossoms in the music of Guqin (Three Stanzas of Plum Blossoms) and Kunqu opera (A Plum Blossom).
After an aural journey picking plum blossoms in Nanjing, there is only one plum blossom we’re missing upon returning to the HNC. Yes, the HNC is also a plum blossom that is flowering in Nanjing for its coat of arms is a plum blossom. What are the meanings and values of the HNC’s plum blossom? It invites all people involved in the HNC community to search, define, and advance in the future.