In Chinese art, the Four Gentlemen or Four Noble Ones (Chinese: 四君子; pinyin: Sì Jūnzǐ), literally meaning "Four Junzi", is a collective term referring to four plants: the plum blossom, the orchid, the bamboo, and the chrysanthemum. The term compares the four plants to Confucian junzi, or "gentlemen". They are most typically depicted in traditional ink and wash painting and they belong to the category of bird-and-flower painting in Chinese art. In line with the wide use of nature as imagery in literary and artistic creation, the Four Gentlemen are a recurring theme for their symbolism of uprightness, purity, humility, perseverance against harsh conditions, among other virtues valued in the Chinese traditions.
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The Four Gentlemen have been used in Chinese painting since the time of the Song dynasty (960–1279) because of their refined beauty, and were later adopted elsewhere in East Asia by artists in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. As they represent the four different seasons (the plum blossom for winter, the orchid for spring, the bamboo for summer, and the chrysanthemum for autumn), the four are used to depict the unfolding of the seasons through the year.
- Paintings of the Four Gentlemen at China Online Museum