Saturday, 24 May 2014

Summer Breeze in Winter Branches

Three Auspicious Friends on Summer Vacation.
Inspired by traditional Seika style.

Pine, Bamboo and Plum, the Three Friends of Winter, is a well known motive in Chinese and East Asian painting and culture. They are grouped together in the context of winter because they all flourish at that season. Plants typically serves as seasonal markers, but they also have deep symbolic associations. Pines retain their green foliage through the winter, bamboo is flexible and doesn't brake in storms, and the plum is said to blossom in the snow. The combination of these plants, symbolizes steadfastness, perseverance, and resilience. They have long served as a symbol of survival in the face of ruff times, and the possibility of renewal. The Three Friends are not only frequently portrayed in painting but are also a favored motif in the decorative arts.

Pine and Roses (substitute for Camellia).

In Japan the three plants are known as the three auspicious friends. When used in ikebana they bring good luck and are therefore particularly associated with the start of the (lunar) New Year.

Bamboo and Narcissus.

Working with seasonal plants in ikebana and their symbolic meaning can be challenging in a climate different from the Japanese. You'll either have to work with local materials and figure out ways of bringing out the symbolic message, or you'll have to substitute materials for something that's similar. The Pine is easily available throughout the year, but here in Norway we have to wait until April for the Plum and won't get Bamboo until May. So it's way out of the original season. That's why I call this exercise Three Friends of Winter on Summer vacation - I won't try to give you the deeper message of that. If you look closely you'll see that isn't even Plum. To wait for the Bamboo the Plum had to be substituted with other fruit branches, in this case a Pear tree.

Spring blossoms, Pear tree (substitute for Plum).


Gail said...

Thank you for this interesting historical information.

nordic lotus said...

Thanks Gail. I'm glad you found it interesting.

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