Plum Blossom Tree

Object nr. 576 China, 19th century Height: 21.5 cm

Collection Altmeyer, France 2019

Condition Report available

€ 7,500

This object can be viewed in our gallery.

Additional Information

Plum Blossom Tree - Meihua

The "plum" in Chinese art is botanical Prunus mume or mei and more closely related to the Apricot than the Plum. It is rare in the West, so does not have any Western name. The hawthorne is perhaps the most similar looking blossom in the West.

These flowers are the symbol of winter and correspond to the month January. The welcoming sight of these flowering trees in late winter, signaling spring, has made this tree a very popular plant in China. Together with the bamboo and the pine tree, it forms the Three friends of Winter – which is an often featured motif in Chinese art.

Because the flowers emerge before the leaves and it takes a long time to come into flower it is also associated with longevity. It is often depicted with a crane, another symbol of longevity. When shown with a lingzhi fungus it is a rebus for a peaceful and long life.

Plum blossom is an emblem of beauty, purity and longevity – as legend says that the great Daoist philosopher, Laozi was born under its branches. Its many qualities have made it a popular subject for poetry for centuries. The Song poet Lin Bu spent his days feeding cranes and planting plum trees near West Lake, Hangzhou.

The five petals of the flower represent many of the ‘fives’ in Chinese symbolism including the five gods of prosperity; five good fortunes; five good luck gods etc. In modern China the Prunus is the National Flower, its petals signifying the five peoples: Han, Manchu, Mongol, Mohammedan and Tibetan.

A popular pattern has plum blossom over cracked ice symbolizing Spring. A plum tree at Huangmei, Hebei is believed to be 1,600 years old. As the Chinese Spring Festival may fall as late as mid-February, it flowers at the end of the Chinese season of winter.

Floris van der Ven