A pine tree in combination with bamboo and plum blossom, is known as the Three Friends of Winter. All three plants have the natural ability to withstand, or even flourish, in harsh environments. This particular trio of plants are a welcome sight in the cold early days of Spring, when the ever-green bamboo and pine are joined by the first blossoming plum trees.
Their surprising display of vitality represents, hardiness, bravery, integrity and rebirth - qualities much admired by the Confucians. All three plants are also symbols of longevity, because the pine and bamboo are ever-green and the plum lives for a long time. Representations of the these hardy winter survivors, were intended to encourage you to persevere, even in the face of adversity. This combination also came to symbolise fortitude and uprightness in trying conditions, traits with which a Chinese scholar wanted to aspire to. The three plants can also represent the three main beliefs in China – Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. It is written that a Chinese gentleman was said to be a Confucian in his career, a Daoist when he returned and a Buddhist when death was imminent.
The symbolism of The Three Friends of Winter , have made it a popular subject for motifs Chinese art. It has been depicted in nearly every material possible. They can be grouped on their own, or in combination with other auspicious symbols for longevity.