“Four Junzi” in Chinese Painting – Plum, Orchid, Bamboo and Chrysanthemum

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To appreciate Chinese painting, you must understand and study the famous “four Junzi” (which means four gentlemen in English translation). The four Junzi in Chinese painting refers to plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum. In ancient Chinese paintings, especially the bird and flower paintings, there are a considerable number of works were based on these four themes. They are often used by painters and Literati to show the lofty tastes, therefore, they are known as the “four gentlemen”.

Let’s first talk about the plum. We all know that the plum blossom is hardy; the flowers can bloom in early spring. Along with pine and bamboo, they are known as the “Three Friends of Winter”. People painting plum is mainly because it’s unique personality of not afraid of cold and dance with the cold snow.


People painting orchids are generally entrusted to subtle noble sentiments. Orchids paintings are a little late than plum paintings, it probably began in the Tang Dynasty. In the Song dynasty, paintings of orchids were become more. People often draw orchids to represent the integrity of noble and simplicity.


Bamboo paintings began in the Tang Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty Empire Tang Xuan Zong, Wang Wei and Wu Daozi were also like to paint bamboos. In Chinese tradition, bamboo symbolizes the stretch of life, longevity, happiness and spiritual truth. Its quiet, elegant and open-minded virtues give people a perfect impression.


The chrysanthemum paintings began in the Five Dynasties. Compared to the plum, orchid and bamboo, the work of the chrysanthemum is relatively much less. Chrysanthemums open in the fall, a season of darkness and dreariness. It represents the quality of people’s integrity.


Painters like to use the “four Junzi” to flaunt the lofty virtues of the gentlemen. For thousands of years, they have been beloved by the people for its elegant and indifferent quality. They become the cultural symbol of the qualities of one kind of personality. The theme of the “four Junzi” is always accompanied by the development of the Chinese bird and flower paintings.

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