Ginkgo Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 7 min read

Trees have been revered throughout history for their beauty, strength, and symbolic meanings. In many cultures, trees are seen as gateways between the physical and spiritual worlds.

The ginkgo tree is a unique species of tree that has been around for millions of years, and it has a long history of symbolism and meaning attached to it.

Ginkgo tree is native to China and is one of the oldest living tree species in the world. It is often called a living fossil because it has remained unchanged for millions of years.

The ginkgo tree is a symbol of strength, endurance, and longevity in Chinese culture. In Japanese culture, the ginkgo tree is a symbol of peace and hope.

The leaves of the ginkgo tree are used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are believed to have numerous health benefits, including improved circulation and cognitive function.

The ginkgo tree is also grown for its ornamental value. The beautiful leaves turn yellow in autumn, making the ginkgo tree a popular choice for gardens and public parks.

Ginkgo tree symbolism has been essential in many cultures and religions throughout history so we will explore its meaning and significance in more detail below.

Symbolism:Primaeval life force
Divine Association:Oneness
Astrological Associations:Moon, Pluto
Historical Spotlight:In 1796, an English botanist named Smith attempted to change the ginkgo’s scientific name because he found it unattractive. He wanted to call it Salisburia adiantifolia instead, but fortunately, his proposal was rejected by other scientists.

About Ginkgo Trees

ginkgo tree yellow leaves
Ginkgo Tree Yellow Leaves

Ginkgo biloba, also known as the maidenhair tree, is the only living species of its family and genus.

It evolved without any close relatives but is often mistaken for a conifer due to certain similarities. This prehistoric plant managed to survive extinction and can now be found in limited areas of eastern China.

The ginkgo tree is a deciduous, resinous tree that usually grows to be around 120 feet (36 meters) tall. Its leaves are fan-shaped and grow in clusters on long stalks.

The male flowers look like catkins, while the female flowers consist of rarely more than two ovules on a long stalk.

Usually only one of these matures into the plum-like fruit, which has a fleshy rind enclosing an edible white nut inside.

Practical Uses

Although the seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree are commonly eaten in Asia, they should be handled with care. Some people may react to the oil found in the kernels, which can cause dermatitis.

Natural Healing

Gingko seeds are mentioned in the “Great Herbal” by Li Shih-chen (1578) as a treatment for asthma, coughs and bladder problems. The seeds can be used raw to treat cancer or cooked to promote digestion.

In the West, ginkgo is now a popular remedy for its effects on the circulatory system. It is useful where circulation is sluggish, memory and concentration are poor, in some types of migraines and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Ancient Chinese were quite creative in their naming of the ginkgo plant, calling it ya chio, which means “duck foot” because of the leaves’ curious shape.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Ginkgo Trees

ginkgo trees
Ginkgo Trees

The ginkgo tree is a sacred symbol in eastern Asia, often planted near religious temples.

The ginkgo has been a food source since at least the second century BCE. Its roasted nuts were especially rare and precious delicacies that royal palaces in China received as tribute from southeastern provinces.

One notable prince, Li Wen-ho, had some ginkgo trees transplanted near his residence during the first half of the 11th century but didn’t live to see them bear fruit; instead, he presented the king with their maiden bowl of golden fruits when he was quite old himself.

The ginkgo tree was given the name Yin Hsing (Xing), which means “Silver Apricot”, in the 11th century. It can take up to three human generations for this tree to mature fully, so it also came to be called kung sun shu or the “Grandfather–Grandchild Tree”. After the Yuan dynasty ended (c1279–1368), these trees became more widely cultivated throughout China and could often be found on temple grounds where many venerable specimens were preserved.

It is not precisely known when Buddhist monks first introduced the ginkgo tree to Korea and Japan, but many of the beautiful trees in Japan are thought to be over 1,000 years old.

According to documentation, ginkgo nuts were used in 1492 as part of a tea ceremony dessert. Since the 1700s, they have been served as a side dish with sake (rice wine).

Engelbert Kampfer, a German physician, “discovered” the ginkgo tree in Japan in 1712 (it was previously believed to be extinct in Europe).

He then sent some seeds back to Europe. Around 1815, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a great German poet and mystic, plucked a Ginkgo biloba leaf from his garden and wrote the following poem:

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Which has been entrusted to my garden,
Reveals a secret meaning,
Which pleases those who know.
Is it one living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these two, which have decided,
That they should be as one?
To reply to such a question, I found the right answer:
Don’t you feel in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?
That I am One and Two?

The four ginkgo trees that survived the atom bomb in Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 have come to be known as the “bearers of hope.” These trees not only withstood the devastation but also began to bloom again by the following spring.

The closest tree to ground zero was Hosen-Ji, which sat a mere 0.7 miles (1,130m) from where the explosion occurred. All four original trees are still standing today and serve as a reminder of strength and resilience in times of hardship.

Since it takes three generations for the ginkgo to mature, it’s earned the nickname “Grandfather-Grandchild Tree.”

Ginkgo Tree Spiritual Meaning

In Buddhism, Ginkgo leaves are often used as offerings on altars, representing hope and the power to overcome obstacles.

The tree itself is seen as a symbol of resilience and strength, with some Ginkgo trees surviving through wars and natural disasters to continue thriving for thousands of years.

In Chinese culture, Ginkgo leaves are also believed to have spiritual cleansing properties and can be used in feng shui practices to clear negative energy and purify the home.

As a symbol of impermanence and perseverance, Ginkgo trees hold a significant spiritual meaning for those who connect with their timeless beauty and unique characteristics.

Ginkgo Tree in the Bible

ginkgo tree leaves
Ginkgo Tree Leaves

The Ginkgo tree, also known as the Maidenhair tree, has a long history dating back 270 million years. Despite its ancient origins, it first appeared in the Bible quite recently in 1966 in the book of Genesis where Adam instructs the plants and animals in the Garden of Eden, including Ginkgo trees.

The Ginkgo tree is also mentioned as a symbol of righteousness and wisdom. Ginkgos have been revered for their longevity and beauty for centuries, and their mention in the Bible only adds to their mystique.

Whether used as an ornamental tree or as a medicinal herb, Ginkgos continue to captivate us with their timeless presence.


Is the Ginkgo Tree Sacred?

The Ginkgo tree is considered a sacred symbol in many parts of Asia, particularly in China and Korea. It is often planted near religious temples as a symbol of strength, endurance, and resilience.

Are Ginkgo Trees Good Luck?

Some people believe that Ginkgo trees are good luck symbols. They may be grown as houseplants or planted outdoors in gardens, and many people believe that Ginkgo trees bring good fortune and prosperity to their owners.

Is Ginkgo a Yin or Yang?

Some people believe that Ginkgo trees are associated with yin or yang, depending on the region in which they are grown.

In China and other parts of Asia, Ginkgo trees are considered to be yin symbols due to their association with regeneration, abundance, and longevity.

However, in Japan, Ginkgo trees are associated with yang due to their resilience and ability to withstand even the worst devastation.


The ginkgo tree is a unique species of tree with a long history of symbolism and meaning attached to it.

In Chinese culture, the ginkgo tree is a symbol of strength, endurance, and longevity. In Japanese culture, the ginkgo tree is a symbol of peace and hope. The ginkgo tree is also grown for its ornamental value.

The beautiful leaves turn yellow in autumn, making the ginkgo tree a popular choice for gardens and public parks.