PureInsight | February 13, 2006
An opening poem recitation by a group of children:
They are blossoming in red and white at once.
In the summer, waves of lotus flowers turn the pond into a slice of heaven.
They stand tall above the pond like young ladies in full bloom.
In the autumn, hundreds of flowers perish with the arrival of the frost.
Chrysanthemum silently claims the glory of the autumn in solitude.
In the winter, heaven and earth are covered with snow.
People look forward to dots of plum blossoms.
Narrator: After school, Ying Ying, Yuan Yuan and Bei Bei approached a
flowerbed. They stood and admired the tulips that are elegantly
blossoming in red and pink, while their teacher Ms. Wang watered the
Ying Ying: Ms. Wang, your tulips are gorgeous!
Ms. Wang: Thank you, Ying Ying.
Ying Ying: The tulip is my favorite type of flower. If only she could turn into a little fairy and become my friend!
(Ying Ying starts to daydream...)
Yuan Yuan: You must be dreaming again. How could flowers possibly understand the human language? It only happens in cartoons.
Ying Ying: But I really want it to come true!
(Pouting her lips and looking slightly annoyed because her daydream was interrupted.)
Ms. Wang: Yuan Yuan, do you really believe that flowers are incapable of understanding the human language?
Yuan Yuan: Of course. Flowers donâ€™t have ears.
Ms. Wang: Did you know that flowers were known to understand the human
language in an ancient Chinese story? Would you like to hear it?
Children: Yes! Letâ€™s hear it!
Ms. Wang: In the ancient Chinese legend, a flower goddess, such as the
lotus flower goddess, the chrysanthemum goddess and the plum flower
goddess, governs each type of flower. All the flower goddesses answer
to the goddess of all flowers.
Narrator: During one winter in the Tang Dynasty, while Empress Wu
Zetian and Princess Taiping were drinking and making merry at a banquet
in the imperial palace, Empress Wu noticed that the plum trees were
blossoming beautifully outside the window. The half-drunk Empress Wu
decided to get up and go to the imperial garden to admire the flowers.
However, only the winter flowers, such as daffodils, plum blossoms and
winter jasmine, were in bloom. The rest of the flowers were sleeping
under the covering of snow. Not a leaf could be seen, much less the
flowers. Empress Wu was very offended by the absence of flowers. Her
Majesty issued an imperial decree.
Empress Wu Zetian: Listen! All the flowers in the imperial garden must
be in full bloom first thing tomorrow morning or face dire consequences!
Ms. Wang: Upon hearing Her Majestyâ€™s imperial decree, all the flowers
in the imperial garden were shocked and terribly frightened because
they were directed by the flower goddesses to blossom in different
seasons. On the other hand, if they refused to comply with Her
Majestyâ€™s order, Her Majesty might have their species become extinct.
The flowers didnâ€™t know what to do, so in tears they sought out their
respective flower goddesses. Upon hearing about the crisis, the flower
goddesses became very anxious, too. They immediately went looking for
the goddess of all flowers.
Ms. Wang: However, the goddess of all flowers had left to visit deities
in another heavenly paradise. The flower goddesses looked for her all
over but could not find her. The more timid flower goddesses decided to
return to the human realm and had their flowers blossom in the morning.
Only the tree peony goddess insisted on finding the goddess of all
flowers. Soon the morning came and the sun was about to come up, but
the tree peony goddess still could not find the goddess of all flowers.
Finally she decided to return to the human realm and ordered the tree
peony to blossom.
In the early morning, Empress Wu Zetian went to the imperial garden and
was very pleased to see all the flowers blossoming beautifully in the
middle of the winter. But after looking more closely, Her Majesty
discovered that her favorite flower, the tree peony, had failed to
blossom. She was furious!
Empress Wu Zetian: Usually the tree peony is the one that I look
after the most! But today, she dares to betray me and not blossom!
Guards, pull up this tree peony and set it on fire!
Ms. Wang: When the princess overheard what was going on, she begged the
Empress for mercy, asking her to please give the tree peony another
half-day. Soon after, all of the tree peonies really did blossom. But
because they blossomed so late, the Empress was still angry, so she
gave the order to have all of the tree peonies in the palace moved to
the city of Luoyang. So, after that, the most beautiful flower in
China, the tree peony, took root in Luoyang!
Beibei: Wow! Who would have thought that these flowers could understand the Empress' orders! How amazing!
(Grandpa Brush Pen flies out of Yuanyuanâ€™s backpack)
Brush Pen: Ha Ha Ha! Indeed! Todayâ€™s scientists have discovered
that plants can really understand what people are thinking! When people
water the plants out of their gentle care, they get really happy! Next,
let me tell you how the word for "flower" evolved.
(Brush Pen clears a space with the tip, and a flash video pops up in the middle)
In ancient times, the words "extravagant" and "flower" meant the same
thing â€“ the word "extravagant" came first. For example, it was said
that the Spring was "extravagant" while the Autumn was "down to earth,"
and the word used here was the same as the word for "flower." In
oracle-bone scriptures, the word reflected a sense of a multitude of
flowers in full bloom, with the petals and branches in a dizzying array
of flower shapes. When forming the words for wood, fruit, or leaf, at
most there were three flower shapes involved, whereas the word for
flower had twelve. Some face upwards, some downwards, some to the left,
and some to the right. This vividly displayed the flowerâ€™s myriad
charms and variations, and this was also a reflection of the wordâ€™s
inventorâ€™s wisdom and statement of mind. In the bronze inscription, it
was simplified to be three or four flower shapes, and the forms were a
lot more standardized. The word in Small Seal had an additional radical
on top to signify that this word signified a plant, and the root and
the stem were separated into two parts. The modern standard form for
the word was most likely derived from the second incarnation of the
oracle-bone form, the only difference being the stem and the root being
linked into one.
(The flash video fades)
Narrator: It looks like, after Grandpa Brush Penâ€™s explanation, the kids have gotten a new understanding of the word flower.
Yuan Yuan: The ancients must have really liked flowers, and thatâ€™s why the word is in oracle-bone scriptures.
Ying Ying: Yeah! I really like flowers too. Itâ€™s just that they always wilt eventually, which is really a shame!
Ms. Wang: It sure is! The image that flowers bring to people is
always beautiful but fleeting. Letâ€™s take the famous epiphyllum, which
has the nickname of the "one-night beauty". It blooms at midnight, but
it wilts by dawn. In those short few hours, it puts all of its beauty
on display. Because its life is so brief, one can feel its gently
vibrating petals just standing next to it, as if you could feel its
determination to bloom its fullest!
Bei Bei: How touching!
Ying Ying: Teacher, is there any way to help the flowers last longer?
Ms. Wang: there sure is. One good way is to "press" flowers. If you want to learn, I can teach you how to do it.
Children: That would be great!
(Grandpa Brush Pen watches the three of them with a smile.)