Gardenias are my favorite flower. I love their creamy white petals and rich, sweet scent. And being a Southern girl, they remind me of home.
While doing some research on the gardenia, I was drawn to its Chinese and Japanese names— Zhi zi (zhr zzz) and Kuchinashi (koo-chee-nah-shee) respectively. Did you know that some Chinese characters confirm Biblical accounts in Genesis?
Having heard and seen examples years ago, I was compelled to try to analyze the characters for gardenia. I didn’t really get very far, because I don’t understand one of the symbols or how it all fits together, but I am still intrigued that both the Chinese characters and Japanese kanji are basically the same, except the Japanese kanji omits the character for seed, but that they both contain the symbol for snake and tree, is reminiscent of what transpired in the Garden of Eden.
Interestingly, the fruit of the gardenia contains crocetin, a chemical compound that can protect against retinal damage or degeneration. Why is that interesting? Because the serpent in the garden told Eve if she ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, her eyes would be opened. Am I suggesting the gardenia bush or tree was the tree of knowledge? No, because the opening of her eyes was spiritual and not physical. I just found the parallel interesting.
The characters without the tree and seed represent an ancient Chinese wine container. Could that be symbolic of the flowers intoxicating scent? I don’t know, but here’s my take on the whole thing— I could be wrong. There was one snake above the others that intoxicated Eve with the promise of power if she ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because he tempted Eve to sin, God cursed the serpent by saying the seed of the woman, which ultimately symbolizes Jesus Christ, would eventually crush his head or power over mankind. Is it too much of a stretch?
Another strange thing about the Japanese name for gardenia is it has no connection to its kanji that I can see. Kuchinashi literally means “no mouth”, and from what I could gather, the name was given either because the seed exit doesn’t open or the flower is symbolic of being unspoken. Perhaps because its scent and beauty say it all? I like the second reason better, don’t you?
Is my love a reflection in a mirror?
We meet and yet we cannot speak.
Can he not sense my love unspoken,
The scent and color of gardenias,
Does he not know me? Oh, my misery!
—Naohimi in The Legend of Semimaru, Blind Musician of Japan