Classical Chinese flower arranging has an ancient history. Methods and techniques of arrangement have varied greatly along with aesthetic values over the years, as have preferred flower varieties. But a list of the most popular styles of arranging down through the centuries would be sure to include offertory flowers for religious ceremonies; the classical, full-bodied court flowers; decorative flower arrangements for display at banquets.
Intellectual flower arrangements- the free-style compositions found in the Buddhist meditation halls of the Five Dynasties and the expressionist works of the Yuan Dynasty.
Intellectual flower arrangements are product of the aesthetic values that developed under the rationalism of the Sung Dynasty. Intellectual arrangements emphasize such themes as reason, idealism, and benevolence, and have been used as a vehicle for expressing the artist's most cherished beliefs, his philosophy of learning, his character, or his view of the world. Intellectual arrangements were most commonly displayed in vases and included pine, cedar, bamboo, plum blossoms, orchids, osmanthus, camellia, narcissus, and other flowers characterized by plainness and simplicity. Structurally, intellectual flower arrangements emphasized purity, clarity, and sparseness.
The line network created by the interplay of leaves and branches, and the specific proportions in which the different elements of compositions were combined were also major hallmarks of mainstream intellectual floral arrangements during the Sung Dynasty. This composition, an excellent example of the intellectual school, is marked by the sharp, vigorous clarity of its lines and a disproportion between the branches and the vessel that contains them.
Magnificent neo-intellectual flowers- the literati stylized arrangements and the neoclassical forms of the Ming; and the realistic arrangements, literati stylized arrangements, homophonous flower arrangements taking their names from like sounding auspicious words and expressions, vegetable and fruit arrangements, and the popular intellectual flower arrangements, all of which gained prominence during the Ching Dynasty.
Originating in the Sung Dynasty, intellectual flower arrangements placed emphasis on logic and reason, and served as a vehicle for expressing the arranger's ethical views and benevolent intentions. These compositions underwent rapid development and took on a more dynamic character during the Ming Dynasty, when they became known as neo-intellectual flower arrangements. The neo-intellectual arrangements of the Ming Dynasty can be grouped into three categories, according to the time in which they appeared: majestic intellectual arrangements, literati arrangements, and neo-classical arrangements. This composition belongs to the earliest category.
The flowers are lush and abundant, and are centered on a perpendicular, vertically rising component. Miscellaneous flowers on all sides lend an aura of power and grandeur, in the best tradition of the palace flower arrangements of the same era. Compositions of this type later found their way to Japan, where they became the ancestor of the Ikenobo type of flower arrangements.