Sunday, March 4, 2018

Confucian Connection


These beautiful phalaenopsis orchids are happily blooming, growing in a pot on my dining room table. Sometimes they are referred to as moth orchids, because apparently a botanist from Sweden first saw them through binoculars in Java in the 1750's and thought the orchids were a cluster of moths ( probably not this colour). Such a mundane name for such an exotic flower, I think, but then moth lovers may think differently?  

Coincidentally, I am currently researching aspects of Chinese art for an essay, and it appears that the orchid traditionally, of all flowers, has had a significant impact on Chinese culture and society. Confucius particularly had somewhat of an obsession with orchids. He gave the orchid a noble character, drawing a connection between his own personal situation and those of wild orchids  .... 

Confucius was shown to have developed a special love for the orchid from an early age. It happened that he had been seeking a ministerial job with the emperors of the Eastern Zhou dynasty (“Spring and Autumn” period) (春秋) but his efforts proved futile after traveling among the kingdoms for more than a decade. One day as he was wandering in the woods he came upon some profusely growing orchids which moved him to say: “夫蘭當為王者香,今乃獨茂與眾草為伍譬猶賢者不逢時與鄙夫為倫也.” (my translation: “The orchids’ fragrance should be enjoyed by royalties in their residence, but they now look so solitary amongst grasses in the wild. They are not unlike noble scholars whom no one appreciates and who have to be contented with the company of the philistine class.”) Confucius likened his not being appreciated by emperors to the solitary orchids in the woods not being cherished by royalties as they should( https://www.asiasentinel.com/alice-poon/culture/the-orchid-and-confucius/) 

The Confucian /orchid quotation I like the best is :  
If you are in the company of good people, it is like entering a room full of orchids. After a while, you become soaked in the fragrance and you don’t even notice it. If you are in the company of bad people, it is like going into a room that smells of fish. After a while, you don’t notice the fishy smell as you have been immersed in it. 




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