Dish with the Three Friends of Winter
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Carved brown lacquer
H. 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm); W. 6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm); L. 6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm)
Promised Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving
Not on view
Pine needles, bamboo leaves, and plum blossoms fill the center of this deeply carved dish. Plum blossoms, which are among the first plants to flower in the early spring, are often associated with the evergreen pine and bamboo, and together, the three plants are known as the Three Friends of Winter, a motif symbolic of the Confucian virtues of endurance, modesty, and fortitude. The prominence given to the plum blossoms on this tray is unusual, as representations of the three plants are normally more carefully balanced.