- 1 Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
- 2 Motif Examples
- 3 Motif in Literature & Other Usage
- 4 Article Notes
|Season||Late spring, early summer|
Botan refers to peonies (Paeonia spp.). Peonies come in two varieties, one that resembles a deciduous tree and a herbaceous (perennial bush) variety. Both have compound lobed leaves. Peonies can be white, yellow, pink, purple, red, or variegated and new cultivars are being bred to this day.
Botan were introduced from China to Japan during the Nara period. Another name for botan was ebisugusuri ("foreign medicine") and its root was prescribed for epilepsy. In China it was known as "king of the flowers" and thematically it was considered appropriate to pair it with the "king of the beasts," shishi. Other Chinese motifs, such as karakusa were also heavily paired with botan during this period.
During the Genroku period (1688-1703) there was a "botan boom" with hundreds of new cultivars being developed and sold. Of particular interest are the kan botan (寒牡丹) and fuyu botan (冬牡丹), tree peonies that were developed to bloom out of season in the winter.
The kan botan is a peony that has the potential to bloom twice a year- in the spring and in the autumn. Its spring buds are removed and the autumn ones forced to bloom. The success of this approach is highly dependent on the weather and even experienced gardeners have a success rate of about 80%. In contrast, the fuyu botan is an early spring blooming cultivar which is forced to bloom early by creating greenhouse conditions around the plant.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
Most botan bloom in early summer. Several winter blooming varieties were bred in Japan in the mid-Edo period and botan can be used as a winter motif whether or not it is yuki-botan, botan in snow.
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Botan was called "the king of flowers" (花王) in China and this epithet was introduced with the motif into Japan. For this reason it is common to see it paired with "the king of the beasts," shishi or "the king of the birds"- usually a galliforme (kujaku, kiji, niwatori) or hou-ou.
Botan is often used as a symbol of nobility and feminine beauty.
Common Motif Pairings
Identification & Style Variations
Botan is depicted as being a large, lush flower with ragged edges to its petals. It can be accompanied by its heavily lobed leaves or placed on a bare branch to evoke winter if it is being depicted in a naturalistic manner.
When stylized it is often presented as forming a perfect circle accompanied by karakusa.
|NOTE: See more relevant images in our corresponding gallery.|
Detail of Nagoya obi with botan from the collection of Naomi Graham Hormozi
Detail of Nagoya obi with botan from the collection of Sarcasm-hime
Detail of Nagoya obi with botan from the collection of Cloverrain
Detail of obi with botan from the collection of Cloverrain
Detail of houmongi with botan from the collection of Moonblossom
Detail of houmongi with botan from the collection of Cloverrain
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
Many shrines have winter blooming botan gardens. Two of the most famous are Tōshō-gū shrine (東照宮, Ueno Park, Tokyo) and Hase-dera (長谷寺, Nara)
|立てば芍薬||Tateba shakuyaku||When standing, she is like a a herbaceous peony|
|座れば牡丹||Suwareba botan||When seated, she is like a peony|
|歩く姿は百合の花||Aruku sugata wa yuri no hana||When walking, she is like a lily|
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- Wikipedia article on Paeonia, accessed February 2, 2013
- World Kigo Database, accessed Febraury 2, 2013
- Four Seasons in Japan Winter Peonies
- Baird, Merrily. Symbols of Japan: Thematic Motifs in Art and Design. Rizzoli. 2001. p.60.
- JAANUS Article on botan karakusa, accessed February 2, 2013
- Bika Bika
- Naomi Graham Hormozi (Immortal Geisha)
Authors & Contributors
Author/s: tzippurah (IG Username)