Tree Symbolism in Chinese Culture


Jacqueline Chao is an art educator & DTLA local- we are lucky that she is also a volunteer here at IDG. During one of our recent conversations about trees, she mentioned that in the Chinese culture, different species have unique symbolism. Intrigued, we asked her if she would guest write a blog post on the subject. Read on to learn more, written by Jacqueline...

Trees - ancient and eternal, beautiful and powerful, serene and mysterious…

A giant ash tree Yggdrasill stood in the center of the nine Norse mythical worlds. Buddha meditated for weeks under a banyan tree before he obtained enlightenment. One of the first oracle of Zeus was a whispering oak tree.

Depending on where you are, trees could have many different symbolic meanings. Today, let’s take a look at some fascinating tree symbolisms in Chinese culture.


Pine Tree

This evergreen tree symbolize longevity because it can endure severe weather.



Bamboo Tree

Bacause of its hollow center, bamboo is resilient and less susceptible to breakage. It can bend but not break. To the Chinese, this characteristic corresponds with the ideals of a Confucian scholar - strong, yet modest and flexible. 



Plum Tree

Plum trees usually blossom during the first month of Chinese lunar calendar years. Therefore, it symbolize hope and courage because it bravely stands against the danger of winter.



Pine, Bamboo, and Plum are known as the “Three friends in Winter” because they do not wither during the cold weather.


Together they symbolize unwavering friendship and remarkable perseverance.



Willow Tree

As if it was bowing, a willow tree symbolize humility.



Osmanthus Tree

An osmanthus blossom/tree can symbolize preciousness or superiority because its pronunciation — gui— is the same as another word which means valuable or nobility.



Cypress Tree

Just like how an Osmanthus comes to represent preciousness, a cypress symbolizes plentiful because it shares the same pronunciation (bai) as the word “hundred”.



Money Tree


The money tree is a legendary tree from which coins fall down when shaken. It symbolizes wealth and good fortune.