The Four Gentlemen



ORCHID - Spring

The Orchid represents Spring, a happy spirit, the symbol of grace reflecting the ultimate feminine virtues. The orchid is considered the Mother of Brush Painting. The beauty and grace of the orchid are fragile in form, with no violent tendencies, its fragrance is never overpowering. The wild orchid grows in what is considered the most inspirational of all places, where the mountain meets the water or where Yin meets Yang. The orchid stands at the gateway of Spring inviting everyone to join in the celebration of life.


The Four Treasures

BAMBOO - Summer

The Bamboo depicts summer and is the most painted subject in the Orient. It represents strength and the virtues of the male, reflecting a sense of perfect balance with upright integrity and tremendous flexibility. The "Perfect Gentleman" with many admirable qualities. The center of the bamboo plant is hollow, suggesting humility. The bamboo seems always ready to be of service and is used in the Orient on a daily basis. The bamboo plant bears no flower or fruit which are considered temporary make-up. The bamboo is thought of as the Father of brush painting, representing simplicity of life and a humble spirit.



The Plum tree is loved for its cosmic significance, expressing the reemergence and continuity of life. The twisted and gnarled tree displays an appearance of hardness, especially during the barren existence in early winter; yet within itself it holds the mystery and beauty, the promise of Spring. The promise is fulfilled when the delicate plum blossoms appear each January, in time to welcome the new year. The plum, blooming in the January frost, is the symbol of hope and endurance.



"Defiant of frost and triumphant in Autumn" is the saying expressing the sturdiness of the late-blooming Chrysanthemum, blooming in the cold autumn air to foretell the coming of winter. This is the last of the Four Gentlemen associating fragrant plants with high ideals of moral behavior with the change of seasons

(The above paragraphs are excerpted from the Sumi-e Society of America, Midwest Chapter website.)



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