Three Friends of Winter

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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. [2]

即其居累土為山,種梅百本,與喬松,脩篁為歲寒友。 [10]

Three Friends and a Hundred Birds by Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty Bian Wenjin, Three Friends and a Hundred Birds.jpg
Three Friends and a Hundred Birds by Bian Wenjin, Ming dynasty

In other places

The Three Friends of Winter as Sho Chiku Bai in Japanese (literally "pine, bamboo, plum") [11]

In Japan, they are particularly associated with the start of the New Year, appearing on greeting cards and as a design stamped into seasonal sweets. [12] Shōchikubai (松竹梅) is sometimes also used as a three-tier ranking system. In this context, the pine (matsu, ) usually is the highest rank, followed by bamboo (take, ) as the middle rank, and plum (ume, ) as the lowest. [13]

In a Korean poem by Kim Yuki (1580–1658), the three friends are brought together in order to underline the paradoxical contrast:

Peach and plum of springtime, don't flaunt your pretty blossoms;
Consider rather the old pine and green bamboo at year's end.
What can change these noble stems and their flourishing evergreen? [14]

In Vietnam, the three along with chrysanthemum create a combination of four trees and flowers usually seen in pictures and decorative items. The four also appear in works but mostly separately with the same symbolic significance. They are known as Tuế hàn tam hữu in Vietnamese. [15]

See also

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  13. "松竹梅 at".
  14. The Bamboo Grove, ed. and trans. Richard Rutt, University of California Press 1971, poem 18
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Three Friends of Winter
Three Friends of Winter by Zhao Mengjian.jpg
The Three Friends of Winter by the painter Zhao Mengjian, Song dynasty