One of the most beloved flowers in China, the plum blossoms (méi-huā, 梅花) have been frequently depicted in Chinese painting and poetry for centuries. The Chinese see its blossoms as both a symbol of winter as well as a harbinger of spring. It is precisely for this reason that the blossoms are so beloved, as they bloom most vibrantly amidst the winter snow, after most other plants have shed their leaves, and before other flowers appear. They are seen as an example of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Though neither the plum tree nor its blossoms are very striking, they manage to exude an otherworldly exquisiteness and beautiful elegance. The demeanor and character of the plum tree thereby serves as a metaphor for inner beauty and humble display under adverse conditions. Because they blossom in winter, the plum blossom is a member of the “Three Friends of Winter (歲寒三友)”, along with the pine and the bamboo. The plum blossom is also a member of the “Four Gentlemen (四君子)” in Chinese art (the others being orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum), symbolizing nobility. In China, there are over 300 recorded cultivars of mei, which can be broadly divided by color into white, pink, red, purple, and light green types.
Painted by Yu Zhiding (禹之鼎)
Painted by Zhu Da (朱耷, 八大山人)
Painted by Chen Xianzhang (陳憲章)
Painted by Tang Yun (唐雲)