Dish with Flowering Plum and Birds
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Black lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlay
H. 1/8 in. (.3 cm); Diam.11 5/8 in. (29.5 cm)
Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, in honor of James C. Y. Watt, 2011
Flowering plums and birds, possibly magpies, a popular theme in the paining and poetry of the Southern Song dynasty (1279–1368), were understood as harbingers of spring, because the plum is one of the first blossoms to appear as winter ends. This depiction of plum blossoms, which range from buds to full blooms, derives from the influential Manual of Plum Blossom Likeness (Meihua xishen pu), written by the artist Song Boren in the mid-thirteenth century, which discusses and illustrates the different stages in the life of this delicate flower.