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Understanding the Symbolism of Cherry Blossoms

written by: Kristina Dems • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

The Cherry Blossom is a cultural icon in Japan. Renowned for its vibrant yet ephemeral beauty, Cherry Blossoms have obtained a remarkable symbolic significance. Learn more about their importance and examples of their use as a symbol here.

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    Cherry Blossoms

    cherry blossom As the yellows and oranges of autumn yield to the joie de vivre of spring, the birth of a flower renowned for its magnificent yet fleeting beauty is much awaited and commemorated – the Cherry Blossoms.

    Cherry Blossoms are flowers of the cherry blossom tree known in Japan as Sakura. Although not entirely indigenous to Japan, it is in this country that the blossoming of Cherry Blossoms is greeted with a euphoric ceremonial reception called Hanami where the Japanese go out with their friends or loved ones to simply enjoy the breathtaking pink-and-white splendor of Cherry Blossoms.

    Being considered a much-loved cultural icon in Japan, Cherry Blossoms have inevitably entered the Japanese psyche. Cherry Blossom symbolism has become a staple in Japan’s paintings, films, poems and all other art forms. Here are the primary concepts represented by Cherry Blossoms in Japan and beyond:

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    Symbol of Transience

    Although Cherry Blossoms can put up such a spectacular show, their existence is brief. This is the main reason why the Japanese people invests time and effort to vigilantly track down Cherry Blossoms so as not to miss a second of its passing time on earth. Cherry Blossoms therefore, are a reminder of our humanity - our mortality. Buddhism’s concept of “mono no aware” teaches the same thing. Like Cherry Blossoms’ cycle of exceptional beauty followed by a quick death, a human being’s life can be given and taken at any moment. During World War 2, Japanese pilots on suicide missions (Kamikazes) painted the figure of the Cherry Blossom on their planes, while some brought branches of these flowers to accompany them in death. Human life is not everlasting. Humanity’s evanescence, epitomized by Cherry Blossoms, reminds us that life is too short to squander away. We have to relish every breathing moment we have left and live life to the fullest.

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    Symbol of Hope

    As the Cherry Blossom season coincides with both the fiscal and calendar years in Japan, it marks the arrival of new beginnings – students start their first day of school and new employees start their first day of work. The intense and vibrant blossoming of Cherry Blossoms bestows us with the license to hope and dream of greater things. It likewise gives us the sanction to forget past disappointments and failures and to look ahead with optimism and enthusiasm.

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    Symbol of Power

    In China, on the other hand, Cherry Blossoms represent feminine beauty. The female’s greatest weapon is her good looks. By exploiting one’s beauty and sexuality, a woman can always command. Men are constantly “all ears” to her beck and call. Consequently, a Cherry Blossom is an image of feminine dominance. In a less aggressive note, “love,” which is a feminized emotion is also symbolized by Cherry Blossoms.

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    Symphony of Cherry Blossoms

    Like a symphony played in allegretto, the blossoming of Cherry Blossoms is dazzling, swift and brief. It is nature’s opus to mortality, hope, power and love. Though the flowers themselves are ephemeral, Cherry Blossom symbolism will endure for eternity.

    Photo Courtesy of Morguefile.com

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