Pub’d on China Daily: An Ode to China’s Enchanting Sweet Osmanthus Flower

China Daily just published my latest column titled An ode to China’s enchanting sweet osmanthus flower. Here’s an excerpt:

When I think of a golden autumn, my mind often turns to one of the great jewels of the season-sweet osmanthus, a tiny flower that has charmed generations of people every fall with its unforgettable fragrance.

This blossom, which measures only 1 centimeter across and grows in clusters scattered about evergreen branches of the osmanthus tree, truly exemplifies the idea that size and appearance aren’t everything. After all, even when painted in the most eye-catching bright orange or buttery yellow hues, it could never rival the more showy peony or rose on looks. But the osmanthus bloom doesn’t have to, because its real strength lies in its honeyed scent, which, much like being in love, will leave you feeling a little giddy and lost in the moment, even when standing meters away from the flowers. If dreams had a fragrance, they might just smell like the osmanthus, imbuing a touch of paradise to even the most ordinary of places.

The osmanthus tree in the front yard of my in-laws’ home in rural Zhejiang province left me wonder-struck one early October morning when its flowers unfurled their magic. The alluring aroma, which had wafted indoors through an open window, enveloped me as I was descending the stairs. It brought me to a standstill for a few seconds as I breathed it in, along with this sensation of pure, unfettered happiness. Dreary clouds blanketed the entire sky above me and yet, even to this day, whenever I recall this memory, my mind bathes it in sunshine because of that intoxicating natural perfume that surrounded me. It’s that uplifting.

I’m certain this kind of wondrous effect factored into why my father-in-law refused to sell that osmanthus tree to horticultural dealers who would continually come by to inquire about its cost. “It’s not for sale,” he would simply tell them. Surely he already understood that nobody could put a price on the experience of having such a delicious fragrance right outside your doorstep every year.

You can read the full column here. And if you like it, share it!

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