Tree peony © Ian Gowland/SPL

Tree peony

Tree peony in Chinese script

Paeonia lutea var. ludlowii

In China, peonies may first have been used for their medicinal properties as long as 2,000 years ago. The roots in particular are used to reduce fever and pain and to prevent infection in wounds. Peonies are also prized for their dramatic beauty, colour
and scent.

Both tree peonies and herbaceous peonies are cultivated in China – together they are considered the ‘king of flowers’. They were first grown as ornamental plants in the AD 600s, and at one time were protected by imperial law.

Peonies are symbols of spring and, because they were grown in early imperial gardens, are associated with royalty. They also came to symbolise wealth and honour. Peonies often appear in Chinese paintings, wood carvings and on silks, porcelain and lacquer objects.

Back to the list of plants and objects in China Landscape

Precious handscrolls were often protected by silk tapestry wrappers such as this one with a peony and chrysanthemums.A Chinese New Year lucky money envelope, decorated with a peony.

Right: A Chinese New Year lucky money envelope, decorated with a peony.

Top left: Tree peony © Ian Gowland/SPL