The flowering cherry (Sakura) and flowering plum (Ume) found in Asia art are often confused by westerners. Both are considered harbingers of the coming of spring with the plum blooming at the end of winter in February and the cherry in April when spring is in full sway. In addition, cherry blossoms are generally very pale to pink while plum blossoms are usually white or a much darker pink to red than the cherry. And finally, the petals of the plum are generally smoothly rounded while the cherry generally has a slight notch on the edge of the petals.
The two flowers have differing symbolism in Japan and China. In China the plum blossom (really more of an apricot than a plum) is much more highly revered than the flowering cherry whereas in the 9th Century the cherry overcame the plum in popularity in Japan. In China the plum is more representative of winter than spring as it is in Japan. In Japan the plum is believed to be a charm to protect against evil. In China the Plum represents resiliency and perseverance and the cherry is representative of feminine beauty and love. In Japan the flowering cherry represents the transient nature of life owing to the brief period, though spectacular, that the trees are in bloom. It is traditional to have picnics under the blossoming trees and to celebrate this time of year in Japan with festivals.
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