Four people have been arrested on suspicion of trying to steal precious peony plants from a university in central China. Security guards prevented the suspects’ car from leaving the campus in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Sunday, Xinhua reported. Police were called and the vehicle was found to contain 15 peony and two Chinese rose plants, the report said. Police said later that the four people had also been accused of stealing a smaller batch of peonies on November 27, and that they had found shovels and scissors they believed were used to uproot the plants. The total haul was valued at about 30,000 yuan (US$4,500), the report said. Thieves make off with eight Toyotas worth HK$3 million from Hong Kong car company The university, which was not named, said the peonies were gifts from the governments of Nanyang and Luoyang in neighbouring Henan province. Each plant was worth about 1,000 yuan, it said. One of the four suspects, surnamed Tao, was freed on bail because she had a child to look after, the report said. The peony ranks among China’s best-loved blooms. It has been a symbol of prosperity and honour for centuries, and was especially popular during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). Luoyang, one of the four ancient capitals of China, is a centre for peony cultivation, and hosts the Laoyang Peony Festival every spring.