Emperors in Song Dynasty Love Wearing Flowers
In the first year of Dazhong Xiangfu (reign title)(AD 1008), Songzhenzong, an emperor of the Song Dynasty of China, prepared to offer sacrifices to Heaven on Taishan Mountain, and he appointed the head of state secutity CHEN Yaosou Senior Official in Dongjing and appointed MA Zhijie Imperial Palace Inspector. Prior to the departure of the troop of offering sacrifices to Heaven, Zhenzong called in the two people to have a dinner at Houyuan Pavilion.
According to the custom of that time, if any prosperous celebration was held in the Palace, the participants should wear flowers on head, which was for the purpose of foiling cheerful atmosphere properly and was similar to wearing corsages in modern times. The monarch Zhenzong and his two subjects all wore peony and had the dinner. After they drank three rounds of wines, Zhenzong hinted CHEN Yaosou to the front of the throne, ordered him to throw the flowers worn on the head away and personally wore the flower got from his own head to CHEN Yaosou’s head. This unusual treatment was the highest courteous treatment that the emperor granted to his official, indicating that their relationship was extraordinarily close. CHEN Yaosou was overwhelmed by the unexpected favor and kneed to give thanks.
After the banquet was finished, CHEN Yaosou and MA Zhijie went out of the Palace together. While walking, a sudden wind blew one petal of the flower on Chen Yaosou’s head away, and CHEN Yaosou quickly called his attendant to pick it up, then carefully put it in the bosom, meanwhile, spoke plausibly and volubly: “It was granted by the emperor and must not throw away”. Besides him, MA Zhijie saw this and made a joke: “My dear brother, you are so complacent, don’t forget, the banquet today has been for me”. CHEN Yaosou was not convinced and said: “Forget it, if the banquet is for you, why his Majesty didn’t wear a flower for you personally?” His pride was showed between the lines.
During the banquet, Vice Prime Minister KOU Zhun accompanied them on site. Zhenzong granted him a fantastic flower and teased him: “KOU Zhun is young and just at the stage of wearing flowers and drink wine”. Zhenzong was very humorous. The Vice Prime Minister was already at the age of 50, and he still made such a joke.
One late spring day at the beginning of Tianxi (reign title), Zhenzong held another imperial banquet in the grand and bright Chengming Palace Hall. The ministers sat in their seat in order. This time, the honor ministers brought the golden plates filling with famous flowers into the banquet hall. Among the famous flowers, Qianye Peony was the best and rarest. There were only a dozen of these flowers among the hundreds plates of flowers. The chamberlain wore imperial flowers for Zhenzong first and then wore flowers for princes and the Prime Minister. These people could enjoy the treatment of wearing the Qianye Peony, while other ministers should worn flowers for themselves. Of course, the Qianye Peony was not for them.
When almost everyone wore the flower, Zhenzong suddenly turned his head and had a look at Hanlin scholar CAO Jiong and other people on his side. The emperors of the Song Dynasty always respected these intellectual officials. Therefore, on this occasion, they didn’t forget to show their special concern about the intellectual officials. Once Zhenzong spoke loudly to the chamberlain: “wear flowers for the scholars”, several eunuchs went forwards immediately and wore a Qianye Peony for CAO Jiong and QINA Weiyan each, which envied by the officials on site.
ZHOU Mi, a person in the Southern Song Dynasty, recorded in the book Martial Old Things that in the imperial banquet for celebrating the 80th birthday of the emperor’s father Songgaozong, “From the emperor to the ministers, guards and soldiers, all wore flowers going back and forth”. And YANG Wanli, one poet of the four well-known poets in the Southern Song Dynasty, described this lively flower wearing banquet in his poem: “The Spring does not need to be called by a Kakko, the Lord bring the Spring back in the first day of the first lunar month. The peony, paeonia lactiflora and rosebush, all of them are worn on the hats of officials.”
If the superior likes something, his subordinates shall like it even more. Because the emperor set an example, the custom of men wearing flowers was popular in the Song Dynasty. From the imperial ministers and the nobility to scholars and common people, all of them would wear flowers on some occasions. Even the tough guys at Shuibo Liangshan who made a living wandering from home would show an elegant feeling tone. So, Xiaoxuanfeng (a nickname, meaning Whirly) CHAI Jin entered the imperial park with flowers. (Picture). Duanmin Erlang (a nickname, meaning good at killing) YUAN Xiaowu wore pomegranate blossom, Bingguansuo (a nickname, meaning good at Kong Fu) YANG Xiong wore cotton rose, Liangzi (a nickname, meaning a loafer) YAN Qing wore everflowering rose, etc. The executioner CAI Qian who ranked the 95th place among Shuibo Liangshan men was so crazy about wearing flowers that he wore flowers at any time, for which he got the nickname One Flower.