Sunflower reached China along the Silk Road

July, 20, 2021

The Silk Road Journal by Mahika Ming

In 1398 the Ming dynasty started ruling Great China & the imperial navy under the command of Admiral Zheng He sailed the known world connecting China to the rest of the world. The Sunflower which was native to South America arrived in China through the international relations developed during the Ming dynasty according to Chinese sources. The bright yellow flower with its towering big figure gives very effective first impression on its beauty to anyone who sees it. During the Qing dynasty Chinese people were already cultivating & getting the best from the Sunflower to promote good health.

In ancient China just as in Sri Lanka people believed that more Children or bigger families will bring more prosperity as they were predominantly agricultural societies. Some even believe that Chinese planted Sunflower in their gardens wishing it will usher in prosperity with more children. Fried Sunflower seeds are a very popular snack among the Chinese. As the flower follows the sun for energy people have also cultivated it for positive energy according to some sources. It has also become very popular all over the world as it can easily adapt to any climate.

Political analysts say that certain forces didn’t want to see China hosting the year 2000 Olympics as it may symbolize the 21st century power balance moving towards China. The world is witnessing the gradual power transfer & ultimately China did get an opportunity to host the Olympics in 2008.  The Beijing Olympic park is one of the largest & diversified sunflower fields in the world. The Sunflower season beings in early July in China every year & ends on 25th July. More than 40% of China’s Sunflower seed production comes from North China (Mongolia Autonomous Region). In Bayannur City, the Sunflower is the main economic crop with more than 400,000 hectares dedicated. When flowers blossom Bayannur simply looks like a yellow sea which goes beyond the horizon (Ref as Chinese sources).

UNESCO records that ancient Xidi village known for its local Hui-style architecture in Huangshan in east China is a heritage site. Bright yellow flowers & traditional white homes with green tiles attract many thousands of tourists to the region during July according to Chinese statistics. As Teresa Teng once explained in her music “the sunflower with golden pistils, you emit fragrance, you bend not but only follow the sun”…China moves forward just as President Xi stated at the CPC centenary.

What can we learn from the Sunflower & the Chinese who are getting the best from the gift it got from South America? We may listen to Henry Ward Beecher who said that…“flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men & animals. Some seem to smile while others have a sad expression, some are pensive & diffident & others again are plain, honest & upright, like the broad faced sunflower”…on our way forward towards development.