Two birds on a blossoming branch, China, Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) or later. Hanging scroll. H. 9 3/4 in x W. 11 in, H. 24.8 cm x W. 27.9 cm (image); H. 41 1/2 in x W. 17 in, H. 105.4 cm x W. 43.2 cm (overall). Museum purchase, B69D3 © 2016 Asian Art Museum Chong-Moon Lee Center for Asian Art and Culture

In this small work a pair of swallows perch on a branch of blossoming wax plum. Wax plum (lamei) has blossoms resembling those of the plum, but its petals are translucent and waxlike. These effects are captured in this painting by edging the petals with opaque white and leaving the center bare so that the silk ground shows through. Because of its beauty and unusual fragrance, the wax plum is one of the most popular flowers of winter.