Sunday, January 25, 2009

Year of Ox

This Monday is the start of Ox year in Chinese calendar (lunar calendar). There are twelve animals in Chinese zodiac cycle. Ox is the second one.

In Chinese cultural, ox is the sign of hard working without complain. It also means prosperity.

Wish everyone and the world best luck in the Ox year.


Chinese New Year

Just like a mom to all her children, I want to be fair to all my art works. But I have to admit there are times that I could not be a fair mom. The arrangement I made last Saturday was one of them. After I took it home and set it up on the sofa table, I could not take my eyes away from it. It put me into the Chinese New Year festive mood, especially, the red color from the Mickey Mouse anthurium brought me the memories of my childhood about Chinese New Year.

I was born and grown up in Beijing at the foot of Bell and Drum Towers. The district is considered as part of the very traditional “old” town. There were red color everywhere in the city. There are red walls of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and many other imperial gardens and buildings. There were many red decorations used in the daily life – red lanterns, couplets on door (门联), spring festival couplets (春联), paper cuts (剪纸) pasted on window and so on. Around the Chinese New Year time, women were on their new dresses, which were red. At the shops and the markets, everything was wrapped with red paper or in red package. People gave and received red envelops. The tiny red pieces from fireworks were everywhere on the ground.

The red, especially Chinese red, has been a very important color in Chinese cultural. It is the color of auspicious and jubilation. The Chinese red is used for all happy occasions, especially for wedding.
The Chinese red was one of the few colors used since ancient times. The color was made from the powder of mineral cinnabar (mercuric sulfide). It was believed that China was the country had pure cinnabar; therefore the color was named Chinese red. It was very widely used in traditional Chinese art forms, especially folk arts. The Chinese red color has been used in Chinese traditional art forms, like painting, the use of it has been carried on to the generations and Chinese Red became part of the Chinese cultural.
Wish you enjoyed the arrangement, Happy Chinese New Year and happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,


Happy Spring Festival

This Saturday, I arranged magnolia. Magnolia reminded me the spring outings when I was in the elementary school.

Every early spring, we had the spring outing to Beijing Summer Palace. That was the very first school outing in the year after a long and cold winter. Students were asked to hand in an essay after the outing, the given title was always something like “Spring is here” or “Spring is coming”. We were asked to observ the trees, plants and other lives to find the “signs” of the spring season. Each year, I noticed something new, however, there were always two types of bloom there every single spring: magnolia and weeping forsythia. There were two types of magnolia flowers, white and purple. I liked both. There was no way to miss weeping forsythia, its yellow blooms were very bright. Those two flowers always remind me the spring season in Beijing.

Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival. When magnolia blooms, spring is coming. Let this magnolia arrangement join your Spring Festival celebrations, wish everyone a very Happy Chinese New Year and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,


Monday, January 19, 2009

Saiweng Lost His Horse

Last Monday, my friend emailed me that her position in the company will be eliminated. She wrote that she is ready to move on. I am so happy for my friend having such positive attitude. This reminds me a Chinese idiom, “Saiweng Lost His Horse”. Here is the story where the idiom came from:

There was an old man named Saiweng in Warring State. He raised horses. One day, he lost one of his horses. When his neighbors heard about it, they went to comfort him. Saiweng smiled and said: “ It’s not a big loss by losing a horse, it might bring me luck.” When the neighbors heard that, they could not understand how it could be possible being good by losing a horse.

Few days later, the lost horse was back and brought along several wild horses.

Neighbors admired Saiweng’s foresight. They came to congratulate. But Saiweng was not as happy as neighbors thought, instead, he looked a little bit worried: “ It won’t be lucky, it might bring me disaster.” The neighbors thought that Saiweng might be very happy but just hided his happiness.

Saiweng’s only son loved to ride horses. One day, he rode one of the wild horses and fell down with a broken leg. Neighbors went to Saiweng to comfort him. Saiweng was not sad at all and said: “ It’s lucky that he is still alive.” Neighbors thought that there was something wrong with Saiweng. How could he be happy for the only son with a broken leg?

Not long after, the war started. All the young men were recruited to fight and they all died at the battlefield. Since Saiweng’s son had a broken leg, he was excused and that saved his life.

In Chinese cultural, when people hear the “bad” news, they would frequently say “Oh, don’t worry, that is ‘Saiweng lost a horse’.” In English, there is a similar phrase I like, “you never know.” We can only know that it is good or bad at the moment, but everything is developing, we don’t know its impact until later. Bad luck may turn into good one and good luck can be a bad sometimes. But after all, we can not control what we will run into in our life, but how to handle it is up to us. There is always a positive side, we can learn and benefit from it.

Last Sunday I had lunch with a girl friend. I knew that she had a boss who was very difficult to please. At lunch, she told me that she moved to a new job. She is thankful to her ex-boss, if it was not her ex-boss, she would not look for a new job and she would be laid off since the company just announced a mess lay off. Now she works for a company that appreciates its employees and treat them very well (one of the benefits is to pay 3 meals a day and allows employees order anything they want to eat from 10 restaurants, even sashimi). Since my friend’s previous experience, now she appreciates her current boss and she is very happy at work.

The picture of this week’s flower arrangement is the New Year arrangement with traditional materials - pine, bamboo, plum and orchid. I set it up in the dancing studio where I take class. People loved it.

Wish you enjoy it and have a very Happy Monday.

In friendship through flowers,


Sunday, January 11, 2009


My friend Winnie and I went to Grammy Award winning Chanticleer’s performance at Memorial Church in Stanford University Wednesday night. The chorus’ singing was lovely. When the two 50 minutes session finally finished, the audience gave them long time applause. The singers came on the stage again and sang Silent Night.

We walked in the campus to the parking lot. It was a lovely warm winter night. It was foggy and sprinkled a little bit. The lights were blurry and soft. Winnie and I talked about the performance. I realized that the singing by the chorus did not sound like male voices (yang) or female voices (ying), Winnie agreed. When listening to the singing, the only feeling was harmony. Twelve male voices in the range from countertenor to bass were seamlessly blended. It was a charming performance and I was so glad that I went.

Lately, I have been studying Chinese ying-yang theory. The performance reminded me Laotze (老子)’s teaching about harmony: “ying envelopes yang and yang holds ying, the dynamic balance with ying and yang is the harmony (万物负阴抱阳沖气以為和)”.

Most Oriental art forms, like Ikebana, were rooted in China, therefore, they are based on Chinese philosophy, ying-yang is one of them. When I was in Japan for Ikebana International Convention, the headmaster of Misho-ryu explained how to apply ying-yang theory in his school, there always a ying branch and a yang branch in a Misho-ryu style arrangement. In my own study, I did not pay much attention to which branch is ying or which is yang. Instead, I am more focused to achieve the balance as whole. There are many pairs need to be balanced in a arrangement, like darker color and light color, long branch and short branch, line or mess, strong or soft, full filled or empty space, and so on. There may be imbalance with any of the pair, but when the imbalances co-exist in one arrangement, and the arrangement is viewed in whole and is balanced, then the arrangement is in harmony. In turn, harmony is the beauty.

At this Saturday’s ikebana class, I had two kiwi branches, one banana leaf, and three anthuriums. After arranged kiwi branches and the three anthuriums, I decided to tear off the banana leaf and cut it to smaller pieces to use in the arrangement. That brought the needed green color and softness feeling into the arrangement and also made connection between the kiwi branches and the anthuriums.

Wish that the arrangement bring you harmony in the new year, wish you have harmonious family and harmonious working environment. Wish all of us harmonious society, harmonious world and harmonious universe.

Enjoy the arrangement and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,
Yirou (以柔).


Wow, what a Surprise!

The past Wednesday (12-12-2007), I went to Chanticleer’s performance with my girl friend Winnie and her husband Lee. Winnie introduced Chanticleer to me last year (2006). We went together and had great time. I was very impressed by the chorus’ seamless voice, which gave me inspiration to write “Harmony”.

This year, I went with expectation that I will hear same classic Christmas carols like last year. To my surprise, Chanticleer changed the style, it was same seamless voice, but more playful, I had so much fun to hear them! When the first half finished, Winnie and I almost said it at same time, “Wow, what a surprise!” The second half of the performance was even better. When chorus finished the last song, the audience applauded long, long time until the actors came out and singed Silent Night. Both Winnie and I noticed that they twisted Silent Night and singed it in a new way.

Walked out, three of us talked about the performance. We wonder what Chanticleer will bring to the concert next year. We decided to make Chanticleer as our tradition, we will go to hear them every year.

It is not easy to always come out something new, Chanticleer did great job. I wish I could do that too. I wish that I could bring my readers excitement every Monday, and make them wonder what I would bring in the next week. It’s long way to reach that goal, I will try my best.

Past Sunday was Ikebana International SF chapter’s annual holiday bazaar – fund raising for the monthly programs. It was free to the public and we had lots of non-ikebana people to attend the event. There were about 15 flower arrangements for drawing. We tried to make them different from traditional ikebana style to attracted general public and gave new feeling to the ikebana folks. On the right was the most popular arrangement.

Enjoy the arrangement and Happy Monday!

In friendship through flowers,
Yirou (以柔).


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spring In Winter

Lately, the economy has been the topic everywhere. There is a fear that we are in the dark winter and don't know how long the winter would last. It reminds me "Spring In Winter", the store I wrote and the arrangement I made two years ago.

Here is the original Spring In Winter:

The Saturday two weeks ago (11-18-2006), I had coffee with my dear friend Mike. We haven’t seen each other for long time, we updated each other. We talked about Happy Monday and Mike asked if I would do anything special to celebrate the upcoming one year anniversary. I was not sure. I had no plan and no time to plan one.

The following Monday, I received an email from a reader, she wrote: “I very much admire your passion and devotion to what I view as a hobby; it must mean so much to you.” I replied to her: “There was no specific reason when I wrote the very first one. I was just so moved by how much impact flowers could do to a person, I was in the mood and had to write. The responses for my writing from readers were great, so I kept writing. I was late twice, readers emailed me to ask where is the Happy Monday. I could not stop since there are readers ‘biting their nails, and waiting (one reader told me that)'. I just keep up.”

Now when I look back myself, I realized that I have been benefited from the writing and learned a lot along the way. The most important lesson I learned is the life attitude, to be open minded and be gratitude, I learned and I was touched by life every day. I share what I learned and what moved me, then I learned more and I was touched more from your feedbacks. I truly appreciate that you gave me the needed push to keep me record and share my life journey with you. Without readers, there will be no Happy Monday.

This Friday night, I learned that my friend Eve passed her thesis defense of her master degree. She had been working on her degree for about three years. It was not easy. She works full time and takes care of her elder parents at the same time. She had lots of support from her friends and coworkers. Friday morning, her coworkers hosted a rehearsal for her, that was when the whole group faced re-org, her coworkers were not sure about their own future. After the rehearsal, everyone in the team wished her good luck and sent her on her way. They had waited in the office until she passed and called with the good news.

I was deeply touched by the story and am happy for Eve, I went to farmer’s market Sunday noon and found irises to make her celebration arrangement. Iris is a typical Spring flower, spring signals new life and new beginning, Spring is the hope. There is no better suitable flower than spring flower for the celebration. I arranged flowers backward in basic style to prepare myself for the future teaching. When I finished, I turned it 180 degrees to have the if face me. I critiqued and corrected, then pulled all stems out, tried second time. When I finished second time of practice and looked at the arrangement, I realized that this process mirrors the life process. We gave our best to accomplish something, when we look back, we review if there is any way to improve, when we have new opportunity, we restart the process again. There was no better way to celebrate Happy Monday's anniversary than this – back to the basic and start over again.

I gave the arrangement to Eve Sunday night. She will take the arrangement to the office to share with her coworkers on Monday. No matter what the outcome is to her group, I wish “spring in winter (I titled the arrangement)” will bring Eve and everyone in the group a new beginning and best future.

Enjoy the arrangement and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,


On Monday morning, Eve emailed her team members:

Dear Team,

As you might have already known, I have successfully passed my master defense last Friday. When Frank told me that last Friday you had waited in the office until I called to report the good news, I was very touched. I felt that I was not doing this degree alone. During the last 3 years of my study, you have given me numerous supports in many ways. I know I can't possibly achieve my goal without these supports. Thank you so much for everything!

The following email is from my friend Yirou (
Eve attached above Happy Monday), who sends out Happy Monday email letters weekly to share her thoughts and art works in flower arrangement. This week, her flower arrangement is titled "Spring in Winter", which is sitting on the table in my office.




There was a good news second day. Eve's group has been stabilized. There was no lay offs at the near future. They had a new manager whom they like and trust very much. I knew their new manager, Frank, he is a very respectful person, he is also a Happy Monday reader, here is his email to me:

Thanks for the nice write up about Eve and our group. I like the title, "Spring in Winter". The sun is always shining and life is always green!

Best wishes to everybody!


Frank concluded in his email. In this economy, the endings may not be as happy as the one with Eve's group, however, the Spring, the warmth and the caring mind among the people, is always there, even in the darkest winter.

Enjoy the arrangement picture and Happy Monday!

In Friendship through Flowers,