Plum Branch and Bamboo

Artist: Chen Jiru (1558-1639)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, possibly early 17th century
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 33.2 x 35.7 cm (13 1/16 x 14 1/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf

bamboo, China, flower, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), plum blossom

To 1915
Tonying and Company, New York to 1915 [1]

From 1915 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Tonying and Company, New York in 1915 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Album List, pg. 48, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. By at least 1917, Tonying and Company maintained business locations in Shanghai, Beijing, Paris, London, and New York, NY. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Tonying and Company (C.L. Freer source) established 1902


The light application of ink accentuates the fragility of these plum blossoms, heightening the ephemeral quality associated with the flower's lifespan. Throughout Chinese literature and art, the plum blossom's delicateness has been associated with feminine beauty, especially in romantic contexts. In other milieus, plum blossoms hail the arrival of spring, bringing hope after the desolation of winter. With the addition of bamboo in the second album leaf, the two of the three "Friends" can represent man and wife-a pictorial device often used to wish newly married couples well. It is a concept derived from "gingmei zhuma," a famous poem by Li Bai (701-762) in which a young plum flower and a toy horse made of bamboo represent a woman and a man who have been fond of each other since childhood.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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