Posted by: marinvit | 2009

Chrysanthemum Legend

With the arrival of cooler weather, many gardeners turn to fall chrysanthemums to provide color for the spots left vacant by tired summer annuals. What most don’t realize is that they are planting a species whose relatives go back centuries, even millennia, and whose origins are buried in legends.


Chrysanthemums are said to have first come from China although they are more often associated with Japan. According to an ancient Chinese legend, about 3,000 years ago, an emperor was told that the Dragon-fly Island in the Sunrise Sea (Japan) had a magic herb that would restore his youth. But since only youth could collect it, he sent a dozen young men and a dozen girls to the island.

They arrived at the islands after surviving perilous storms and attacks by sea serpents, and finding neither magic herb nor inhabitants on the island, they decided to stay. The prized possession they brought for trading, and now nurtured as a tie with their homeland, was the golden chrysanthemum.

Of course, Japanese mythology provides a different version of how the chrysanthemum came to be found in Japan. Legend has it that in the beginning, there were so many gods in heaven that some, including the god Izanagi and the goddess Izanami, were sent to the earth on a cloud-bridge. Once on earth, the goddess created the gods of the winds, mountains, sea, and others, finally dying upon creating the god of fire.

Izanagi missed Izanami and so followed her to the place of Black Night where she had gone, only to see vile sights and be pursued by the Old Hag of Black Night. Narrowly escaping back to the earth, the god Izanagi went straight to the river for a purification bath. As he shed his clothes and they touched the ground, they turned into twelve gods. His jewels became flowers–one bracelet an iris, another a lotus, and his necklace a golden chrysanthemum.

Japan’s imperial emblem for ten centuries featured a golden chrysanthemum with sixteen petals. In the War of Dynasties, which began in 1357 and lasted for 55 years, each warrior of the South wore a yellow chrysanthemum as a golden badge of courage.


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