The reason for Ms. Cao Ruiyun to learn floral design is to develop a hobby that she can turn to when she gets old and lonely. After launching a floral design class, she has not only found many like-minded people, but also helped Chinese floral design grow in the fertile soil of Chengdu.
Ms. Cao's floral design classroom is filled with an elegant fragrance. She told us that the class was started in 2003, and since then the aroma of flowers has always been lingering in the room.
Ms. Cao left Taiwan, China to accompany her son to study in Chengdu in 2000. At first, she opened a coffee shop and decorated it with flower arrangements. One day her assistant suggested her to teach people Chinese-style floral design. Following the advice, Ms. Cao began to offer floral design courses and she has taught a large number of students over the past ten years.
Chinese floral design has a history of nearly three thousand years. In The Book of Songs, it mentioned that there was a tradition of men and women sending flowers to each other. During the Six Dynasties, the tradition of offering flowers to Buddha was the rudiment of Chinese floral design. Royal flower arrangements prevailed in Tang Dynasty. In Song Dynasty, floral design was considered as one of the four major recreations shared among literati, and bases and porous vases specially made for flower arrangements appeared during this period. A number of literary works elaborating on floral design were created in Ming Dynasty, such as History of the Vase Flower. From Qing Dynasty to the early 1980s, Chinese-style floral design gradually declined, but this art began to revive in China in the last thirty years.
Actually, what Ms. Cao learned thirty years ago was Western-style floral design, which was extremely popular at that time. During that period, Mr. Huang Yongchuan, the former curator of the Museum of History in Taiwan,China and professor of Fine Arts, exerted great influence on the development of Chinese floral design. He devotes himself to the study of Chinese fine arts and focuses on research of the history of Chinese-style floral design. Mr. Huang established the Chinese Floral Art Foundation in 1986. Since then, Chinese floral design has gained more attention in Taiwan, China and attracted more people including Ms. Cao.
Ms. Cao joined the foundation and after taking examinations, she finally obtained the highest title - Professor - in floral design. Though she did not intend to teach floral course in Chengdu at the very start, Ms. Cao gradually feels that she wants to "do something". Ms. Cao considers that traditional floral design art should develop under the support of education. Therefore, she has prepared more than ten text books for the class, from beginner to advanced level, introducing utensils, flowers and floral design in a systematic way.
The youngest student of Ms. Cao is a third-grade girl from high school. There is also a senior at seventies coming to class regularly. The floral design Ms. Cao learned and acquired in her hometown has become warmly accepted by people in Chengdu. Over the past 14 years, thousands of people have taken the class or learned about Chinese-style floral design by attending lectures.
Ms. Cao talked about why people love Chinese floral design from her own point of view. Chinese floral design is a part of Chinese culture, while culture is an indispensable part of life, just like the major four recreations enjoyed by literati in ancient times. According to Ms. Cao, the beauty of Chinese floral design lies in interest and charm as well as the harmony between human and nature. The spiritual enjoyment of floral design indicates the philosophy of "metaphysics".
Ms. Cao has perceived the concept of following nature and pursuit of harmony between human and nature promoted in Chinese culture through floral design and delivering floral design courses. She opened the floral design class by chance, but consequently she meets and gets acquainted with many people sharing common interests. She practices flower arrangement with them and together they enjoy the beautifulness of flowers. Their life has been intertwined with flowers. The nature rules and traditional ways of thinking are also shown in floral design.
Chinese floral design is characterized by Chinese features. When learning about Chinese floral design, many people would wonder about the difference between Chinese and Japanese floral design. According to Ms. Cao, Japanese floral design indicates rigorousness and dedication of Japanese people, and it is true that Japanese floral design is performed in a simpler way. As China boasts vast territory and abundant resources, Chinese-style floral design is richer in content and more diverse in form.
During our talk, Ms. Cao picked some floral-design materials and began to make flower arrangements in a leisurely way. She matched the branches with yellow fruit with fresh green leaves and some red dried flowers. Finally, a work of Chinese flower arrangement was completed, featuring brightness and modesty, blossoms and harvest, as well as softness and stiffness.