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My friends and I enjoyed my trip in Mongolia. It was nice and interesting to visit to Mongolian wide steppe area and meet nomads. The trip was planned very well. Thank you for your all care.

~ Femke and Maria, Holland

FLOWER ETIQUETTE IN MONGOLIA

Blog | published: 2021-03-10

Flowers are beautiful and they are the art of the heaven. But what is more important – flowers are symbolic in Mongolia? Flowers follow us on all special occasions with special meaning. Knowing flower etiquette is the key, especially if you want to live elegantly and with much honor and respect to Mongolian culture. Flower etiquette in Mongolia, is not only about the presenting flowers to someone, but it is about how to deal with flowers – and plants, furthermore to the plants’ energy and as well as nature deities. Blue Mongolia Tour agency’s botanical tour guides will be your guide, Please, follow them.

General guidance on concepts about offering flowers to someone

Meanings of the symbol, colors, numbers of flowers and the looking of the buds are important for the case of offering flowers. Flowers and plants are offered to deities, which includes gods and enlightened bodies according to Buddhism and some lords of nature according to shamanism, and as well offered to young girls and boys, who fell in love with.   

Regarding the number, according to Asian culture there is no any strict rules for keeping the right numbers such as even numbers for deceased people and odd numbers for live people. The meaning of number is important. The best numbers in Mongolia is 3, 5, 9 and 13. When the Buddhist monks offer flowers to their Buddha deity, they will use 5, 7, 21 or 108 numbers of flowers. But when the shamans offer plants to the god of nature and people offer plants to shamans, they do in number of 2, 7, 9, 17 and as much as countless.

Regarding the colors, Mongols are very sensitive with the meaning of colors. The blue is the color of the sky and it is symbol of respect. The green is the color of the land and is symbolizes the peace and tranquility. The yellow is the color of the sun, and it is a symbol of high education, knowledge and the enlightment. The white is the color of milk and it means purity and sincere soul and much of compassion. The red color is a fire and it means that always flourishing and succeeding. For example: Orange and yellow colored flowers such as orange Ranunculuses are offered by Buddhist monks to Buddhist deities of Manzoushri, which is knowledge carer or a man deity. The students and school girls and boys offer yellow and orange colored flower bouquets to their teachers and professors with yellow colored khadag – silk scarf. If the deity is a Tara, which symbolizes the pure lady and a mother, the people and monks offer a white colored flower or white petals of pure flower lotus. If it is a Green Tara, it symbolizes an adult lady or an old lady, who is a mother, so the only flowers with fully bloomed and opened buds flowers are offered to her. If it is a White Tara, which symbolizes the young lady or a virgin girl, the white flowers with un-bloomed buds are offered to her.

Regarding the meaning, it is very complicated notion, which tells the mentality and mind of steppe horse herders. In order to talk about the meaning of flowers, the usage of the flowers and the Mongolian people’s relation to flowers and plants, we picked up some plants as an detailed example.      

The Mongolian Nation Pride Flower

In 2014 the Mongolian Government announces that Nation Pride flower is a Scabioza, which is genus in the honeysuckle family of flowering plants. So it is called as butterfly blue. Another common name for members of this genus is pincushion flowers. The Mongolian name of this flower is Baavar flower, which means the most and top in all sides. The another name is Ber flower, which means the Bride. The color of this flower is the most elegant bright purple, aromatic, well high quality for medical purpose, summer 2 months blooming, the shape is like a well-known craftsmen crafted, never attacked by worms and fungus. The flower is used for medical purpose to treat liver decease.   

The meaning of this flower is a victory, a good health and the peace. So, Mongolian ladies presented this flower to their husband, grooms or boyfriends, when they depart to conquer in military campaigns. It means their husbands will come back with good health and live in peace in the future.     

There is a Mongolian legend about the bride flower. The just married couple departed due to the war condition. When the young man left, the young lady gave a promise she will be honest to him and wait for until his return. After the big victory of that tribe, she was looking for her husband and finally, he received an information that her husband was dead in that war. So she fell in sadness and she spoke a poem for good wishes for other young girls: Blue eternal sky father, please, take care for the husbands, the green eternal earth mother, please, take for ladies to stay in peace in their homes with their children. The yellow treasure sun and the silver white moon, please, help the married couples to live in the happiness forever, even in their afterlife. She said so and cried as sitting on hill, so her tears dropped on the earth and the Bride flower grows there. The Bride flower is blessed with the good wishes from the deep of her heart, so Mongolian people use, when the couple is departed for a while.      

Most sacred flowers in Mongolia

The most sacred and the most purest flowers in Mongolia are 2 flowers: white lotus in the lake water and snow lotus on the top of mountains. These are lotuses, which is not seen very commonly and is not reachable very easily. So they belong to special sacred flowers, which belong to the sky deity and the water deity.

The Snow lotus scientific name is Saussurea involucrata, which belongs to daisy family. Common names in english include saw-wort and snow lotus. The Mongolian name of this flower is the Sky’s flower. Because the latter used for a number of high altitude species in Mongolia, which grows in more than 3500 meters above the sea level and nearby the edge of snow peaks of the high mountain range. The sky lotus grows always in pairs next to each other. It is white and little bit watering pinky in the middle. It is used as medical plants for the lung deceases, especially, for treatment of the lung cancers.

It is very sacred and special flower, so Mongols keep unwritten rules for picking this flower. Ordinary person is not allowed to pick it up. Only a medical doctor can pick it up for the treatment purposes. In the afternoon the medical doctor offers a milk to the sky deity and ask permission for picking the flowers, then he pitches up a black colored tent over the snow lotus. When it gets night and dark, the doctor picks it up. The content in this flower will not lost in the darkness during picking up, so it can keep the valueable quality for treatment. After that medical doctor will ask excuse for the deity of sky for picking flowers.         

The water lotus’s scientific name is Nymphaea alba and it is known commonly as water lilies. It grows in lakes in wetland areas, specially in north part of Mongolia. According to shamanism, the water lotus is the main seat for the Queen of water lord for enjoy with the sun. The Queen of water lord means the head of all mermaids and aquatic subjects. The water lotus is presented to buddhist deities more than in shamanism. The most Buddhist deity seat is described as water lotus flower. The water lotus opens it’s petals in the morning by 7 o’clock and the buds are closed in the afternoon by 5p.m and then it lies under the surface of water. If the sky is not clear and there is no sun, the water lotus will not appeared on the water.

Again, Ordinary person is not allowed to pick it up. Only medical doctors can pick water lotus up for the treatment purposes. Medical doctors stuff their ears with cotton of plants or with sheep cashmere and they pick the lotus seeds in the night hours. When they are picking the seeds, or picking up the leaves and buds, they speak nice compliments for coaxing and calming down the water deity and asking for excuses.  

There is a Mongolian legend about this water lotus. A brave young cavalier was flying in the sky on his flying horseback, when he fights with evil spirits. His 2 shoots failed, and they are traveling in the space and finally they were crashed with 2 bright white stars. So big explosion is happened and some pieces of the stars fell in the water on earth, consequently, star fractions made to grow white lotus flowers.     

Flower with symbol of eternity and long life  

There are 2 flowers, which are considered as a symbol of eternity and long life. One is an edelweiss and another one is a beautiful lady (Helichrysum arenarium). Because, after picking them, they keep their shape and color very long and they are the best for the gerbaries and flower bouquet inside of the ger. Therefore, Mongolian people pick them and keep them as a decoration in their ger.

Edeleweiss’ biological scientific name is Leontopodium and the Mongolian name meaning is a White Mountain. The traditional medicine doctors use this flower to treat the contagious deceases, which leads people into the death. Mongolian people make a pillow with this flower and it keeps the blood pressure normally and the smell makes people to have very good rest.   

A beautiful lady flower grows in the steppe and low rolling hills as decorating yellow hills in the late fall.          

Flowers with symbol of love and dating

Love in Mongolia is not strongly associated with cut flowers offerings. Instead of flower offering, Mongolian horse herder boys invite girls to date in the middle of aspects of cozy flowers’ blooming fields. Sometimes boys bring girls to show beautiful flowers hill or very rare bright red colors flowers. Maybe, it is connected with the native Mongolia culture and real Mongolian mentality to protect and respect the nature. That is why boys let young girls to enjoy thousands of flowers as seeing the nature beauty instead of picking them up and presenting them to girls. But in city busy life, modern guys buy the cut flowers such as red roses for girls to express their love or propose them.      

Most ancient and cozy flower

There are more than 70 species of plants, which are native and relict plants in territory of Mongolia. The most cozy and pure bright white colored, endangered and endemic plant is Adonis Mongolica Simonov. Adonis Mongolica is considered as a plant creation dated back to more than 4 millions years ago and it was facing to severe and extreme cold weather conditions such as the 4th age- ice age. The ice age lasted longer and this plant overcame the severe frosty conditions in dormant ways and then came back as blooming, when the warm climate relocated in the territory of Mongolia. This flower is only existing in Khangain Nuruu Mountain region areas in central part of Mongolia nowadays. Most often it grows on deserted pastures. The plant is listed in red book of Mongolia as an endangered specy and protected as a rare plant. Mongolian botanics tried to re-select and propagate this plant by seeds and stems, it was not successful and the propagation method is still not found by Mongols. It has numerous shoots – up to 11.8 inches on a bush, including shoots of the second and third orders. Middle leaves are sessile, basal leaves are reduced. Flowers are large, up to 2 inches in diameter. Light-green sepals with a purple hue are covered with small pile. The petals are white. Leaves get unfold only when the flowers are fully opened.

Narrated by the botanical guide from Blue Mongolia tour team 

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