Cherry blossoms are flowers of the cherry blossom tree known in Japan as the “sakura.” Although not entirely indigenous to Japan, it is the country where cherry blossoms are revered with ceremonial receptions called Hanami and symbolized as an omen of good fortune, an emblem of love and affection, as well as an enduring metaphor for the fleeting nature of mortality. The overall symbolism of the cherry blossom has interestingly transcended into other deeply rooted meanings as well.
In Japan, cherry blossom trees, called “sakura,” are held with the highest esteem. The ceremonial receptions, known as Hanami, are generally excursions where people gather to ponder the transient nature of life and mortality, since cherry blossoms are known for maintaining a short lifespan. This concept ties in with Buddhist ideals concerning the nature of life. In addition, the samurai culture of Japan also held great admiration for the flower since samurais (like the cherry blossom) were considered to have relatively short life spans and also because they believed the flower represented drops of blood. Nowadays, the flower represents innocence, simplicity and spring.
The symbolic references of the cherry blossom in China hold quite a different meaning than that of Japan. In China, the flower is associated with female beauty and dominance, as well as feminine sexuality. It ultimately symbolizes power and strength. However, within the Chinese herbal traditions, the cherry blossom is often a symbol of love and passion.
The cherry blossom season overlaps with the fiscal and calendar years in Japan, marking the arrival of new beginnings (i.e., a child’s first day of school or a new employee’s first day at his new job). The exuberance and intensity of the cherry blossom, therefore, bestows the license to hope and dream of greater things to come and to look ahead with enthusiasm and optimism.
China upholds the cherry blossom as representing feminine beauty and dominance. It is regarded as a symbol of a woman’s attractive looks and her ability to command men by means of her beauty and sexuality. The flower also symbolizes love, which is known as maintaining a feminized emotion.
The blooming season of cherry blossoms are brief, resulting in instant beauty and immediate death of the flower. They, therefore, serve (within the Japanese culture) as reminders of humanity and mortality since, like cherry blossoms, a human being’s life can end at any given moment. The human condition is epitomized through the cherry blossom, alerting people that life is too short to waste away and that people should live life to the fullest.