All in literature, art and daily life of China, generally visitors can easily and widely see some plants that Chinese people always like planting and keeping in yards and on balconies, or illustrating in their writings or picturing on their themed paintings. Roughly these plants consist of Pine Tree, Bamboo, Plum and Orchid.
In the morning, careful lookers can see in general many people, exactly the senior people, standing on their balconies in the tall buildings to water or prune their favorite plants or miniascape, and among them, most are the orchids apart from some flowers like chrysanthemum. Besides, in many family yards or gardens, especially in some traditional classical gardens such as the old gardens in Suzhou, Hangzhou and Yangzhou, visitors can directly see the bamboos, pine trees, plum trees and others easily. Furthermore, in many Chinese traditional paintings, many painters like drawing these plants in order to show the higher pursuits of their own personalities and moralities. Also, in many Chinese books, readers also easily get the information of these plants in the narrations or illustrations for different orientations. What’s more important, many Chinese people prefer to give names to their younger generations with the names of these plants to hope the younger generations have the high quality and morality like these plants.
Some people may want to know the reasons why these four plants are so popular and welcomed in China. The reason is simple just because these plants in long history have been positively humanized with different excellent characters that only the outstanding or saint-like people have. Chinese people traditionally highly respected the well-cultivated people and these people generally were well educated and brilliantly gave the plants surrounding them their ideal personality or pursuits in morality and culture. Chinese elites preferred creating poems and four sure these plants they liked became the targets that widely and respectably illustrated in their poems, and these poems were also widely spread in more people and more areas in a longer time. These plants were certainly familiarized and accepted by more learners and commoners who respected those related poem writers. They like calling themselves Gentleman, so these plants with the humanized characters are surely called Gentlemanlike Plants.
In Chinese people’s mind, pine tree represents fortitude and strong-mindedness. Especially in winter, other planted were faded, only the pine trees still stand on the higher place to resist the strong northern wind and keep their masculine characters and green which is their life color. Anciently, Pine trees were loved best by many people and, and were ranked first in four gentlemanlike plants. Bamboo also represents perseverance and high morality. Learning from it, people can understand much more how to be a better and gentlemanlike man. The inside of bamboo is empty to show people should be humble and modest and node of bamboo means to be a better man should have personal principle. Plum represents the hard-working and strong-willed, and it flowers in winter and snow when other flowers are all faded just because they could not bear the coldness of winter and the bad environment. Plum among the four gentleman plants is possibly liked best by learners in traditional China. Lin Yu or Lin Hejing, a famous recluse and poet lived near to West Lake of Hangzhou in Song Dynasty, even considered Plum as his wife in spirit. And Chairman Mao also liked plum very much. In Chairman Mao’s poetry, plum is highly praised. Orchid is the plant of scholars; it is widely planted in the room, mostly in studies of scholars to show the elegance of the room masters and the uniqueness of the taste of scholars. Many scholars, professors and leaders like orchid and set it in their studies or bedrooms. Hu Shizhi is a representative and specially wrote a song themed with orchid, and it is much too famous in China. Additionally, Chinese people also like lotus, willow and chrysanthemum.
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