???The ?three friends of winter??refer to the pine, plum, and bamboo. The origin of this term is found as early as the ?Record of the Five-cloud Plum Cottage?? from The Clear Mountain Collection of literary writings by Lin Ching-hsi (1241-1310, a Sung dynasty loyalist); ?For his residence, earth was piled to form a hill and a hundred plum trees, which along with lofty pines and tall bamboo comprise the friends of winter, were planted.??br>
???Every year, as the season progresses from autumn to winter, the days become progressively colder. While many plants and trees begin to wither away or shed their leaves, the pine, plum, and bamboo seem to do just the opposite with their surprising display of vitality. Indeed, this unique quality was not lost upon the ancient Chinese.
???In Chinese thought, the always green and fragrant pine (bearing craggy and twisting branches) reaches up to the skies with its straight and powerful trunk like an upright person imbued with the strength and virtue to overcome all. In ?The Analects??of Confucius (551-479 BC), it is written, ?In winter, the pine and cypress are known as the last to fade away?? Consequently, the pine became considered as the ultimate test of time, symbolizing a wise old person who has withstood and experienced much. Therefore, in ?Records of the Grand Historian??by Ssu-ma Ch?ien (145-86 BC), the pine was already known as ?Chief of the Trees??
???Although the bamboo may not be nearly as imposing or sturdy as the pine, it too remains mostly green through the winter as segment upon segment reach out with abundance and stamina to withstand the cold. Unlike the pine, however, the stalk of the bamboo is hollow, which came to symbolize tolerance and open-mindedness. Furthermore, the flexibility and strength of the bamboo stalk also came to represent the human values of cultivation and integrity in which one yields but does not break.
???The plum tree is renowned for bursting into a riot of blossoms in the dead of winter. Its subtle fragrance spills forth at one of the coldest times of the year, making it difficult to go unnoticed. Though neither the plum tree nor its blossoms are very striking, they manage to exude an otherworldly exquisiteness and beautiful elegance during the desolation of winter. The demeanor and character of the plum tree thereby serves as a metaphor for inner beauty and humble display under adverse conditions.
???The praise that the Chinese have for the pine, plum, and bamboo derives from the natural ability of these trees and plants to withstand and even flourish in harsh environments. They became symbols that encouraged people to persevere in adversity, providing inspiration through consolation and determination. Consequently, these three became common subjects through the ages in Chinese painting and calligraphy. Because artists bring different sets of conditions, experiences and feelings to these subjects, the result is a variety of forms, expressions, and sentiments in their works.
???The present exhibition represents a selection of paintings of pine, plum, and bamboo from the Museum collection. With this display, it is hoped that viewers will come away with a sense of appreciation for the emotional attachment to these subjects while outdoors as well as for the beauty of these paintings now indoors.