PRINCETON - Because of their ability to thrive even in the harshness of winter, pine, bamboo, and plum together embody steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience. Pine and bamboo are evergreen, while plum trees blossom at the end of winter, signaling the approach of spring. Representing the ideal characteristics of a scholar-gentleman, the trio came to be known as the Three Friends of Winter. They stood as symbols of hope and sheer determination, encouraging perseverance in the face of adversity. Consequently, these three symbols of virtue became a popular theme in Chinese painting, poetry, and calligraphy throughout the ages. Displayed here are a range of stylistic forms and expressions that reflect the ways in which different artists experience and portray the Three Friends.

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Gui Changshi 歸昌世 (1574–1645), Bamboo, 1613,  Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Hanging scroll; ink on paper. Painting: 109 x 29.5 cm. (42 15/16 x 11 5/8 in.). Mount: 259 x 48 cm. (101 15/16 x 18 7/8 in.). Gift of DuBois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. y1947-4. Princeton University Art Museum

According to the artist’s inscription, this painting of bamboo growing behind rocks was made on a winter day; the tips of new bamboo shoots emerging from the rocks suggest that the artist was looking forward to the coming of spring. Painting bamboo requires a mastery of both brush and ink. Not outlined in their individual forms, the stem, knots, branches, and leaves of bamboo are brushed in tones of ink, as if the artist were writing calligraphy. Many artists devoted their entire careers exclusively to painting bamboo.

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Wang Yuan 王淵 (active 1310–1350), Pure Serenity of Green Bamboo (綠竹清幽圖), 1342, Yuan dynasty (1260–1368). Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk. Painting: 211 x 95 cm. (83 1/16 x 37 3/8 in.). Mount: 298 x 107 cm. (117 5/16 x 42 1/8 in.). Gift of DuBois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. y1947-5. Princeton University Art Museum

Bamboo has long symbolized gentlemanly virtue in China. The hollow center represents humility, the straight stalk embodies rectitude, and, as an evergreen, the plant is seen as persistent and used as a symbol of longevity. In this painting, bamboo is shown in various stages of growth—from young shoots to tall stalks crowned by branches and leaves—and rendered in ink outlines (shuanggou) filled with mineral colors.

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Zhu Sheng (ca. 1680–ca. 1750), Bamboo in Snow, in Ming style, 1722, Qing dynasty (1644–1912)Hanging scroll; ink on silk. Painting: 173 x 94 cm. (68 1/8 x 37 in.). Mount: 300 x 104.4 cm. (118 1/8 x 41 1/8 in.). Gift of DuBois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. y1947-41Princeton University Art Museum

Staying green even when covered in snow, or bending in fierce winds but not breaking, bamboo is celebrated for its ability to endure harsh conditions. The artist Zhu Sheng was known for his talent for depicting bamboo in ink. In this scroll, areas of silk are left unpainted to indicate the presence of snow.

 

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Anonymous, Flock of Cranes and Pines (Qunhe chaosong), undated, Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk. Painting: 226 x 173 cm. (89 x 68 1/8 in.). Mount: 369 x 189.5 cm. (145 1/4 x 74 5/8 in.). Gift of DuBois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. y1947-59. Princeton University Art Museum

Large pine trees, bamboo, and blooming hibiscus by a mountain stream are accompanied by a flock of fourteen cranes. A symbol of longevity, the crane (heis also known as the"bird of the immortals" (xianqinits white body is a sign of purity, and its red crown indicates that its call reaches up to heaven. This assemblage was likely an auspicious image that conveyed wishes for long life and prosperity.

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Peng Yulin 彭玉麟 (1816–1890), Plum Branch, undated, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Hanging scroll; ink on paper. Painting: 169 x 90 cm. (66 9/16 x 35 7/16 in.). Mount: 281 x 102 cm. (110 5/8 x 40 3/16 in.). Gift of DuBois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. y1947-233. Princeton University Art Museum.

Peng Yulin rose to prominence as a naval leader fighting rebels in the 1850s and 1860s. He long refrained from accepting governmental office but eventually became Minister of War. In addition to his high official position, he was a talented painter and calligrapher, famed for depictions in ink of plum trees. It is said that in his youth Peng Yulin grew fond of a girl close to his age, whom he called Meigu (Aunt Plum) because she was technically of a generation before his. This difference likely kept the two apart; Meigu married someone else and died in childbirth. Standing at her grave, Peng vowed to paint ten thousand plum paintings in her memory.

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Ma Lin 馬麟 , attributed to (active ca. 1180–after 1256), Plum (?), undated, Qing dynasty (1644–1912), Modern period, 1912–present. Handscroll; color on silk. Painting: 30.5 x 200 cm. (12 x 78 3/4 in.). Mount: h. 32 cm. (12 5/8 in.). Gift of DuBois Schanck Morris, Class of 1893. y1947-260Princeton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 aPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 bPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 cPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 dPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 ePrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 fPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 gPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Shitao 石濤 (1642–1707), Plum Blossoms, ca. 1705–07, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 20.2 x 29.7 cm. (7 15/16 x 11 11/16 in.). Leaf: 59.6 x 36.4 cm. (23 7/16 x 14 5/16 in.). Gift of the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for The Arthur M. Sackler Collection. y1967-15 hPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Li Shan 李鱓 (1686–ca. 1756), Orchids and Bamboo (Lan zhu tu 蘭竹圖), undated, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 32.5 x 46.1 cm. (12 13/16 x 18 1/8 in.). Leaf: 81 x 61.8 cm. (31 7/8 x 24 5/16 in.). Mat: 45.5 x 63.3 cm. (17 15/16 x 24 15/16 in.). Gift of Jeannette Shambaugh Elliott. y1977-16 bPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Li Shan 李鱓 (1686–ca. 1756)Orchids and Bamboo (Lan zhu tu 蘭竹圖), undated, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 33 x 46 cm. (13 x 18 1/8 in.). Leaf: 81 x 61.8 cm. (31 7/8 x 24 5/16 in.). Mat: 45.5 x 63.3 cm. (17 15/16 x 24 15/16 in.). Gift of Jeannette Shambaugh Elliott. y1977-16 dPrinceton University Art Museum.

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Li Shan 李鱓 (1686–ca. 1756), Orchids and Bamboo (Lan zhu tu 蘭竹圖), undated, Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 32.2 x 45.6 cm. (12 11/16 x 17 15/16 in.). Leaf: 81 x 61.8 cm. (31 7/8 x 24 5/16 in.). Mat: 45.5 x 63.3 cm. (17 15/16 x 24 15/16 in.). Gift of Jeannette Shambaugh Elliott. y1977-16 ePrinceton University Art Museum.

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Chen Zhuan 陳撰 (active 1710–1740), Plum Blossoms (Mo mei ce 墨梅冊), undated,  Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 23.1 x 15.7 cm. (9 1/8 x 6 3/16 in.). Leaf: 28 x 18.8 cm. (11 x 7 3/8 in.). Mat: 35.7 x 26.8 cm. (14 1/16 x 10 9/16 in.). Gift of Mrs. Edward L. Elliott in honor of Lucy L. Lo. y1985-10 a. Princeton University Art Museum.

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Chen Zhuan 陳撰 (active 1710–1740), Plum Blossoms (Mo mei ce 墨梅冊), undated,  Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 23.1 x 15.7 cm. (9 1/8 x 6 3/16 in.). Leaf: 28 x 18.8 cm. (11 x 7 3/8 in.). Mat: 35.7 x 26.8 cm. (14 1/16 x 10 9/16 in.). Gift of Mrs. Edward L. Elliott in honor of Lucy L. Lo. y1985-10 b. Princeton University Art Museum.

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Chen Zhuan 陳撰 (active 1710–1740), Plum Blossoms (Mo mei ce 墨梅冊), undated,  Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Album leaf; ink on paper. Painting: 23.1 x 15.7 cm. (9 1/8 x 6 3/16 in.). Leaf: 28 x 18.8 cm. (11 x 7 3/8 in.). Mat: 35.7 x 26.8 cm. (14 1/16 x 10 9/16 in.). Gift of Mrs. Edward L. Elliott in honor of Lucy L. Lo. y1985-10 c. Princeton University Art Museum.