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 in Chinese art. 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.
Florence and Herbert Irving , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)