saikan sanyuu 歳寒三友
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Ch: suihan sanyou. Lit. the three friends of winter. A painting theme featuring pine matsu 松, plum ume 梅, and bamboo take 竹; all of which retain their vigor during cold weather. Before their combination, each of the three friends was already a well-established subject with Chinese painters. The pine was associated with chastity, the bamboo with uprightness, and the plum with purity and renewal. The plants embody the ideals of the Confucian scholar-official who endures tenaciously in spite of adversity. For Confucian scholars, adversity often came in the form of allegiance to the old order after a dynastic change in rule. For these left-over subjects (Ch:yimin, Jp: imin 遺民) the saikan sanyuu held a particular meaning especially from the fall of the Northern Song dynasty,the coming of the Yuan and later the Northern rule of the Ching dynasty. The origin of the theme is thought to relate to a line in the Confucian Analects (Ch: Lunyu, Jp: RONGO 論語) which reads saikan shouhaku 歳寒松柏 (in the winter the pine and cypress). In Japan the earliest examples of the saikan sanyuu date from the Muromachi period and are well-represented in the painting of Gyokuen Bonpou 玉えん梵芳 (act. early 15c). The theme was also a favorite of *nanga 南画 artists.

*shikunshi 四君子 

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