Written by Darcy
Zhang Wei (Yuki) teaches oriental flower arrangement here in Xi’an. I payed her a visit to find out about her art form. She became interested in flower arrangement after she discovered a book about Japanese flower arrangement being sold by a street vendor. This inspired her to pursue the art, following a teacher in Shanghai for several years. She embodies the elegance of her art form. Seeing her dressed in silk and pouring tea in a gentle manner I felt as though I was being transported into a distant dynasty. Her work had me gazing into scenes of natural beauty, those which we don’t often encounter amongst city apartment blocks. It was like a miniature garden inhabiting a corner of the room. And so I decided to share my discoveries with you.
Can you tell me about oriental flower arrangement?
There are two main characteristics of oriental flower arrangement, the first is the line, shape and form and the second is artistic intention. These are what we take into consideration when creating a piece and are what we look for when observing a piece.
Oriental flower arrangement emphasises creating a beautiful artistic conception just like in Chinese painting. There are two ways of expressing a concept. You can either first use the materials you have to hand and use them to express something or come up with a theme first and then go and select your materials accordingly.
The lines should be natural and convey movement and flexibility. Although it is man-made it needs to appear to be natural. Stiffness, rigidity and artificialness should be avoided. The work should be fluid and imbued with life, giving observers a feeling of strolling amidst natural scenery.
Density is very important for this and clustered areas should be balanced with spacious areas. Just like in Chinese painting you have to find the right balance between form and formless to create a harmonious rhythm. We can also call this the interaction of Yin and Yang （阴阳）.
Can you tell me about this piece?
This work is fitting with the current season. Now we are entering the colder part of Winter and it is the time of heavy snowfall. Here I chose some branches with plum-blossom-like flowers. It’s just like falling snow in the morning and the plum blossoms are persevering through the harsh weather. Plum blossoms grow in Winter and in traditional Chinese culture symbolize strength and purity.
So what is the difference between arranging flowers at home and oriental flower arrangement?
Oriental flower arrangement has a theme. Then there is the Dao （道）of flower arrangement. Dao is often translated as the way or path. In Chinese philosophy it is used to refer to the path to enlightenment.
Life has frustrations flower arrangement is a way to quiet one’s heart in a busy world. Focusing on creating beauty and freeing oneself from concerns one is able to purify and quiet their heart. This results in a renewed sense of joy and satisfaction.
With time you can go from practising on outer appearances to finding inner peace and harmony. This will then in turn naturally manifest itself outwardly as gentleness, softness and kindness. This is a way to cultivate your heart.
There are five things we pursue in this art:
静Serenity and stillness
真Truth and sincerity
和Harmony and peace
The highest level of this art is to realize that oneness with all, in Chinese it is called ‘天人合一’. The ‘way’ to this realization is contained within the art itself. So if you are interested in learning you must first find a teacher and be willing to dedicate time and energy. Then as time goes you will be sure to blossom.