Royal simplicity: Apricot blossoms in Hue

Every Tet holiday, yellow apricot blossoms bloom in the gardens of royal palaces and pagodas. This flower expresses the vitality of Hue’s sky and people, and it is regarded as their sacred spirit.

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Apricot blossoms are used as decoration during the traditional Tet holiday and symbolize prosperity in the New Year. The five petals of the flower represent five lucky gods. Apricot flowers are also a symbol of longevity. According to tradition, if the apricot blossoms bloom brightly, their owners will enjoy prosperity in the New Year. If the flowers are faded and their petals small, their owners will have bad luck.

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The five petals of the flower represent five lucky gods. Apricot flowers are also a symbol of longevity.

Apricot blossoms have always been a popular subject for art in Hue. The apricot was respected as a royal flower. For the Nguyen dynasty in Hue, this flower was a symbol of spring, the rise of the dynasty, and a peaceful country. Images of this flower are often seen on the temples, palaces and antiques of Hue.

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Images of apricot flowers appear in various art forms. Unlike in China, in Hue the apricot flower is listed among the “flowers of the four seasons” (apricot flower, lotus flower, daisy and bamboo). Apricot blossoms represent spring, lotus flowers summer, daisies autumn and bamboo winter. In addition, this flower is one of the “four precious flowers” (apricot, orchid, daisy, bamboo). Apricot blossoms are found in various classical themes: apricot blossom and the word “longevity”, apricot blossom and crane, apricot blossom and bird, and apricot blossom and stone. These designs signify longevity, happiness, magnanimity and honesty.

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In Thai Hoa palace, apricot flowers are seen by the central chamber along with the image of a bird. They are also found on the roof of The To temple and in the “Four Seasons” painted in pastel with pieces of glazed terra-cotta in the foundation of the largest temple in the ancient citadel. In Dien Tho palace, apricot blossoms decorate the screen in front of the sanctum in an apricot and stone motif. They also appear among the four precious flowers in the central chamber of Dien Tho palace in mortar and pastel, and in Long An palace (also known as the Hue museum of royal antiques).

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Decorated sections of Hien Nhan and Truong An gates contain porcelain and coloured glass mosaics of apricot flowers with the word “longevity” and apricot flowers with a bird.

The Hue museum of royal antiques houses thousands of objects from the Nguyen dynasty in many different materials and designs, in which apricot flowers and crane, apricot flowers and the word “longevity”, and apricot flowers, orchid flowers, daisy and bamboo are depicted on bronze, porcelain, wooden and silver objects. In particular, the museum owns a set of golden plants with leaves made from gems. The apricot tree in this set is made of gilded wood with white glass flowers and blue gem leaves. Around the tree, there are orchids, daisies and bamboo to create a set of the four precious flowers. However, the main subject is the apricot tree.

Blue porcelain tea plates are decorated with cranes standing by old apricot trees and two sentences of poetry in Chinese-transcribed Vietnamese, written by the poet Nguyen Du during his business trip to the Qing dynasty of China.

Symbolizing the aristocratic way of life, apricot flowers were used in the art of decorating palaces, mausoleums, temples, pagodas and precious objects to create a colourful world full of animals, plants and flowers.

Symbolizing the aristocratic way of life, apricot flowers were used in the art of decorating palaces, mausoleums, temples, pagodas and precious objects to create a colourful world full of animals, plants and flowers.

Text and photos: Nguyen Van Tuong – Vntravellive