What does a Japanese chrysanthemum tattoo symbolize?

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One of the most widely cultivated flowers in the world, the chrysanthemum's popularity has grown such that "mums" now reign as the undisputed "Queen of the Fall Flowers." Centuries of careful breeding by gardeners has resulted in a wide range of floral colors, shapes, and sizes. Today, the flower's colors include various shades of pink, purple, red, yellow, bronze or orange, and white. Chrysanthemum comes from combining the Greek word chrysos; meaning gold, with anthemon; meaning flower. So the chrysanthemum is literally, the 'golden flower'. This noble blossom was often portrayed as a symbol of perfection in many cultures. Quite an achievement for a blossom that started out as a small, yellow daisy-like flower! The chrysanthemum has been cultivated in China for nearly 2,700 hundred years and the flower was revered for both its beauty and as a medicinal herb. As an herb, it was believed to have the power of life. Legend has it that the boiled roots were used as a headache remedy; young sprouts and petals were eaten in salads; and leaves were brewed for a festive drink. "If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow Chrysanthemums," says one ancient Chinese philosopher. In China the chrysanthemum is a symbol of Taoist simplicity and perfection. Autumn is the season of this flower, a time of tranquillity, completeness, and abundance following the harvest. Since it blooms right into winter, it may also symbolize the ability to mediate between life and death, between Heaven and Earth. The ancient Chinese name for chrysanthemum is "Chu." The Japanese regard the chrysanthemum as their 'solar flower'; the Japanese Imperial Family adopting it as their emblem and the Seal of the Emperor himself. Indeed, the Emperor's position is referred to as The Chrysanthemum Throne. The flower is depicted with 16 petals radiating like flames from the sun, the center of which symbolizes the Emperor's status in the scheme of things. Longevity and joy, these are the attributes of both flower and worthy ruler. In Japan, the Imperial Order of the Chrysanthemum is the highest Order of Chivalry. Japan also has a National Chrysanthemum Day, which is called the Festival of Happiness. In Japanese tattooing, certain design elements are often paired together, with specific flowers figuring prominently. There are several traditional combinations: ryu (dragon) with kiku (chrysanthemum), Karajishi, which is a combination Shishi (lion) with botan (peonies), and menchirashi (men means "a mask," and chirashi or chirasu means "to scatter") with cherry blossoms. Those images are particular sets for Japanese traditional tattoo designs. In many European countries the chrysanthemum is known as the death flower. In countries such as Belgium and Austria, the chrysanthemum is used almost exclusively as a memorial on graves. In Italy, chrysanthemums are most appropriate at funerals, perhaps symbolizing its association with immortality. A chrysanthemum petal in a glass of wine is thought to encourage a long and healthy life.
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