Simple beauty endures
Written by John Millen
The sun had begun to set behind the mountain, telling Akihiko the gardener that his day in the chrysanthemum fields was over.
It was the hour to leave his beloved flowers and go home. His blooms could now rest until dawn broke the next day.
Akihiko's flower fields stretched far into the distance, to the foot of the mountain. The old gardener stood and watched as the evening light turned the yellow flowers to deep gold and the white to a colour like cream. Akihiko grew only these two colours of chrysanthemum. His blooms were the most beautiful in all of Japan.
As he left his fields, Akihiko didn't see Manjiro, his young assistant, crouching in the shadows behind a water barrel. Manjiro waited until his master had vanished down the homeward path, and then he stepped out of his hiding place. Manjiro loved the flowers as much as his master did, and he had a plan.
Manjiro wanted to produce a chrysanthemum to outshine all the flowers that grew in his master's fields. He was a clever, studious boy who could read, write and paint, and it was only his passion for the chrysanthemum flower that kept him from moving to the city to find his fortune.
He planned that one day the chrysanthemum would make him famous.
Manjiro had studied what the flower needed to release its full beauty. For many months, he had been preparing a special liquid that was now ready to be fed to a flower. Manjiro felt a shiver of excitement shoot through his entire body as he bent down and looked carefully at two budding plants growing apart from the others at the edge of the field. One was white, and one was yellow.
The boy took a pot and a trowel from his bag and slowly dug around the roots of the young yellow flower, tenderly lifting it and placing the rootball into the pot. Gently, he put the potted plant into his bag and hurried home.
Manjiro tended the flower daily, feeding her the special drink and carefully trimming her leaves and working on her beauty. Her petals grew dense, curved and soft. In a short time, she looked perfect. She was more magnificent than any bloom that Akihiko had grown.
Meanwhile, the white chrysanthemum that Manjiro had left in the ground was not growing too well. The earth around her roots was often dry, because Akihiko's water spray did not always reach the edge of the field. Some days, the flower struggled to hang on to life.
Manjiro knew that the stunning beauty of his yellow chrysanthemum would not last forever. He had to act quickly before it faded. His chance came one day when a stranger walked into the flower fields with Akihiko.
The man was the chamberlain from the court of Lord Abu. He had come to the flower fields to look for a bloom to go on his master's new family crest. Akihiko guided this important visitor through all the best flowers in his fields. But the chamberlain saw nothing that pleased him. Ignoring the look of shock on Akihiko's face, Manjiro rushed up to the chamberlain and presented him with the yellow chrysanthemum he had been nurturing at home. The chamberlain turned up his nose in distaste.
'That bloom looks too ornate and false. It is not what I am looking for. But I did see a simple white flower growing alone at the edge of the field. Its beauty is delicate and true. I will take that chrysanthemum back to Lord Abu.'
At his castle, Lord Abu agreed that the small white flower was perfect for his crest. Artists came and painted the flower's likeness onto all of Abu's possessions. Embroiderers sewed the face of the flower onto all of Abu's robes. And so, many people appreciated the white chrysanthemum's beauty long after her death.
But the beauty of the yellow chrysanthemum faded quickly. One day she felt a strange sensation rise up through her leaves, and within a few hours she was dead.
Manjiro remembered her for a short while, and then he moved to the city and forgot all about the chrysanthemums he had once loved so much in the gardener Akihiko's flower fields.
1 What was the relationship between Akihiko and Manjiro?
2 What were Manjiro's motives for nurturing the yellow chrysanthemum?
3 What happened to the white flower that Manjiro left in the field?
4 Why did Lord Abu's chamberlain visit the flower fields?
5 Why did he reject Manjiro's yellow flower?
1 Manjiro was Akihiko's assistant.
2 He hoped that the flower would make him famous.
3 She struggled to survive.
4 To select a flower to be immortalised on Lord Abu's crest.
5 Because the yellow flower was too ornate for the purpose.