Because it retains its greenery even in the dead of winter, the pine symbolizes endurance and fortitude. For Yuan-dynasty scholars living under the alien rule of the Mongols, depictions of ancient pines became a potent metaphor for survival in the face of political discrimination.Wu Zhen was an educated man who in more settled times would have followed a career in government service. He chose instead to live in reclusion in the mountains of Zhejiang Province. Calling himself the Plum Blossom Daoist (Meihua Daoren), he made a humble living through the practice of divination.In his inscription, Wu describes the source of his inspiration for this painting:In winter, the eleventh lunar month of the third year of the Yuantong reign era [December 1335], while visiting the Cloudy Grotto, I saw a crooked and twisting ancient tree. So I wrote this picture to record what I saw. Meihua Daoren [the Plum Blossom Daoist, Wu Zhen] playing with ink.