Plum Blossom and Bamboo Motif Paintings from the Suzhou Museum
There once was a poem which praised the character of the plum blossom. It says that the shadow of the plum blossoms reflects sparsely in the water, and the delicate aroma floats in the dusk. It also comes first to bloom in the spring. The evergreen bamboo implicates straightforwardness and integrity. Its hollowness echoes the virtuality of Taoism, while its roundness symbolizes the worshipping of heaven. Among all the natural plants, the plum blossom and the bamboo especially inherit the temperament of clearness and brightness of heaven and earth. That’s why they are nicknamed as “the friends of winter”.
Suzhou is famous for its picturesque scenery, where plum blossoms and bamboos can be seen everywhere. According to Tales of the World, Wang Ziyou, a famous scholar and calligrapher of the East Jin dynasty who loved bamboos, once came to Suzhou. He found dense bamboo forest at an official’s private garden, and he paid a visit there directly without informing the host. Finally he returned chanting and reciting poems. In the suburb west to the old town of Suzhou is located Dengwei Mountain, renowned for its lush plum blossoms. Song Luo, governor of Jiangsu province in the early Qing dynasty, once had three characters “Xiang-Xue-Hai” carved on the cliff, which literally means “A Sea of Fragrance of Snow”. Its fame could rival that of Gushan Mountain in Hangzhou. Around the handrails and zigzagging corridors, close to the canals and in the forest, plum blossoms and bamboos are not rare to be found.
Literati all love the plum blossom and the bamboo. Since the rising of literati painting in the Northern Song dynasty, they have become a special preference to scholars as the symbol of integrity and elegance. The bamboo motif painting could at least date back to Su Dongpo and Wen Tong of the Northern Song dynasty, who developed a special interest in bamboo and started the ink bamboo painting style. In the Yuan dynasty, scholars integrated the achievements made by predecessors. The plum blossom motif painting could date back to Monk Huaguang of the Northern Song dynasty. Legend has it that he once saw the shadow of plum blossoms reflected on the window by the moonlight and then created the ink plum blossom painting style. Yang Buzhi of the Southern Song dynasty and Wang Mian of the Yuan dynasty both learnt from him and were renowned for their skills.
Painting is also associated with one’s morality. This exhibition has selected over forty plum blossom and bamboo motif paintings in the Ming and Qing dynasties from the Suzhou Museum. We hope they will be of interest to the audiences.