Reed flowers, also called Tongcaohua,meticulously crafted from reed (Phragmites australis) material, have been beloved for their unique charm and exquisite craftsmanship since ancient times.

In ancient texts, we can find records of reed flowers. The renowned poet Su Shi of the Song Dynasty, in his work “Comparison of Four Flowers,” compared reed flowers with several other types of flowers using his characteristic delicate strokes, describing their beauty and uniqueness. He likened the reed flower to the chrysanthemum, showcasing the grace and vividness of reed flowers. This not only praised the reed flower but also acknowledged this traditional craft.

Throughout history, reed flowers have become a part of people’s lives with their lifelike appearance and delicate craftsmanship. In “The Three Incarnations of the Bao Longtu in the Book of Warning Stories,” there is also a vivid description of reed flowers. The book describes two women eating with flushed faces, one of whom is holding reed flowers, further confirming the popularity of reed flowers in ancient society.

The beauty and realism of reed flowers often make it difficult for people to distinguish between real and fake. Guo Moruo depicted the delicacy of reed flowers in his work “Before and After,” describing a scene with inserted reed flowers, showcasing the refinement and vividness of this flower.

As time passes, the craft of making reed flowers has gradually become a unique cultural heritage. It is not only a craft but also a tradition and a legacy of history. Each reed flower embodies the painstaking effort and wisdom of craftsmen. With its unique charm, reed flowers allow people to appreciate the exquisite beauty of traditional crafts. Today, reed flowers have become a cultural symbol, representing the fusion of traditional crafts and culture, and reminding us to cherish and inherit this unique cultural heritage.

History of Reed Flower Production

The material used for reed flowers is reed slices, which are taken from the inner stems of reeds, cut into sections while moist, straightened, dried in the sun, and cut into paper-like pieces with fine, soft, and white textures, which are pliable. Reed flowers, processed artistically by folk artists, have a soft texture and elegant colors comparable to real flowers. According to the “Records of Yangzhou Huafang,” reed flowers were produced in the Qing Dynasty during the Qianlong period in the Xiangshengsi in Yuanmen Bridge. During the Republic of China, it declined, with monotonous varieties limited to headwear flowers, including hibiscus, double lotus, spring peach, willow, seven chrysanthemums, and acrobatics. In 1953, Qian Hongcai, a reed flower artist, first created reed chrysanthemum bonsai (see Figure 57), opening up a new field of reed flower production. After the establishment of the Flower Craft Cooperative in 1956, the variety of reed bonsai developed, including dozens of varieties such as peony, rhododendron, plum blossom, wintersweet, rose, daylily, bamboo, orchid, camellia, hydrangea, welcoming spring, maple, etc., and began to be exported. Reed bonsai became a popular indoor decoration and display item. In April 1958, the product “Ode to Peace” designed and produced by Ni Junsheng, Yang Zhixiang, and Qian Hongcai, a combination of velvet, silk, and reed, was selected to be exhibited in Moscow, Soviet Union. In 1959, when the Beijing Great Hall of the People was completed, ten reed bonsais such as chrysanthemum, rhododendron, bamboo, daylily, wintersweet, camellia, peony, and boxwood designed and created by Qian Hongcai were selected for display in the Great Hall of the People. In 1966, reed hanging screens began to be produced. The reed hanging screen “Jiangshan Such a Beauty” was exhibited in the Beijing China-Soviet Friendship Building. After the beginning of the “Cultural Revolution,” reed flower production ceased. It was resumed in 1972. In 1972 and 1978, large reed hanging screens and floor screens such as “Not like the Spring, Better than the Spring,” “Plum, Orchid, Pine, and Chrysanthemum” produced by Yangzhou Flower Making Factory were successively exhibited at the National Arts and Crafts Exhibition. In 1979, Qian Hongcai and Dai Chunfu designed and produced two large reed wisteria flower racks for the Jiangsu Crafts Exhibition Hall of the Guangzhou China Import and Export Commodity Fair, which received wide acclaim. Special reports were made by reporters Wan’er from Hong Kong (Ta Kung Pao) and Li Yelong from “Macau Daily”. Articles and photos were published in China Economic News and Nanyang Commercial News. Starting from 1980, reed bonsai gradually ceased production due to factors such as large volume for export transportation, fragile glass for hanging screens, and low production capacity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top