Rose-of-Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus

Also known as the Rose of Sharon, the hibiscus (or mugunghwa in Korean) is the national  flower of South Korea and a popular motif in that country’s architecture. The hibiscus was adopted as the symbol for the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and the Silla Kingdom (57 BC-935 AD) called itself Mugunghwa Country. Records indicate that Korea was referred to in ancient China as “the land of gentlemen where mugunghwa blooms.”

The Korean government adopted the hibiscus as the national flower following liberation from Japanese rule in 1945. Because of the flower’s ability to easily flourish following transplanting or cutting, some Koreans cite it as an example of their country’s wish for prosperity and the tenacity of its citizens. During Japanese occupation, Nam Gung-eok (1863-1939) sought to create “hills of roses of Sharon” by sending tens of thousands of the flowers to schools and churches from his hometown of Hongcheon. This effort to promote patriotism led to Nam Gung-eok’s arrest and imprisonment in 1933 for what became known as the “mugunghwa incident.”

Red hibiscus is a common ingredient in tea and Asian food, often cited for curative elements, such as lowering blood pressure and cooling the body.


Nile Valley Teas. “Hibiscus Tea and the Nile Valley: A Brief History.” 

Wikipedia. “Hibiscus” Accessed August 15, 2008.

Asia Source. “Asia Food: Hibiscus”  Accessed August 15, 2008.

Image of Korea. Korea’s National Flower: Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon).  Accessed August 15, 2008.

Selected Asian works of art featuring Hibiscus:

Art Institute of Chicago

Katsushika Hokusai. Japanese,1760-1849. Hibiscus and Sparrow. Color woodblock print; oban, c. 1833. Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1925.3371

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