Lovers of flowering plants and shrubs we have had by scores, but Tao Yuanming alone devoted himself to the chrysanthemum. Since the opening days of the Tang dynasty, it has been fashionable to admire the peony; but my favourite is the water-lily. How stainless it rises from its slimy bed! How modestly it reposes on the clear pool – an emblem of purity and truth! Symmetrically perfect, its subtle perfume is wafted far and wide, while there it rests in spotless state, something to be regarded reverently from a distance, and not be profaned by familiar approach.
In my opinion, the chrysanthemum is the flower of retirement and culture; the peony, the flower of rank and wealth; the water-lily, the Lady Virtue sans pareille. Alas; few have loved the chrysanthemum since Tao Yuanming; and none now love the water-lily like myself; whereas the peony is a general favourite with all mankind.