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Flower power

By Xu Junqian (China Daily)

09:30, August 28, 2012

(Kuang Linhua / China Daily)

Need to cool down or chase away irritating bugs in summer? Chinese women have a beautifully scented secret weapon. Xu Junqian looks at the revival of floral water sprays, so beloved of genteel matrons from a generation past.

The days are still hot enough to melt the popsicle children are clutching in their sticky hands, and cicadas still sing in loud sporadic bursts in the trees casting shade on the windowsill. Indoors, the electric fan buzzes and sends out a gentle breeze upon which wafts the sweet scent of the floral water from the sleepy granny in the rocking chair.

It is a familiar vignette dredged from the memories of those who lived through the early '80s, an era in which many went through the transition of a simple but rustic lifestyle to the urban and hectic.

And while the simple and rustic can never be recaptured, a wave of nostalgia for the floral water sprays so popular with the fashionable females of that era has caught suppliers by surprise.

Apparently, a recent video, which went viral online, helped spread the nostalgia.

Named the Past and Present Life of Floral Water, it traced the history of the century-old perfumed infusion in a four-minute animated narration. In the beginning, it started life as an eau de toilette, a luxury item on the female dressing table of the 1900s. It gradually became a summer essential, to spray on liberally to cool off.

Within a few days after it was posted online in July, the little clip had been seen 9.54 million times with more than 240,000 comments left under it, according to statistics from the Jahwa Group, the producer of the video and the manufacturer of Liushen Floral Water.

"The response is overwhelming," says Qin Fenhua, director of the marketing department of the group.

"The target clientele of floral water used to be the 30- to 40-something housewives of China, as they are the decision-makers in buying household products. The more active profile groups online tend to be younger. But I guess there must have been an empathy in the video that cut across young or old, male or female."

As the country got more affluent and more and more imported toiletries flooded the Chinese market, homegrown floral water has been forced to evolve from an exclusive perfume to a more plebeian, if functional, role as summer cooler - and insect repellent.

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