The Four Gentlemen in Chinese painting refers to the four different plants of exemplary conduct and nobility of character. They are as the following: the orchid (蘭) represents spring, the bamboo (竹) is for summer, the chrysanthemum (菊) is for autumn, and the plum blossom (梅) is for winter. “Gentleman” in Chinese is call “Junzi 君子” which, in Chinese philosophical terms, means a noble man or an ideal man. The typical characteristics of Junzi include humility, loyalty, obedience, knowledge, and an emphasis on good deeds over words. The core characteristic of Junzi is benevolence (仁); this falls under Confucius’ central philosophy.
Chinese artists love to paint the Four Gentlemen because each of the four plants represents good characteristics of a noble man. In particular, a traditional Chinese artist likes to paint the Four Gentlemen as a series to depict the progression of the seasons through the year and to admire good virtue and personal character.
Welcome Spring 迎春
Bamboo bring peace 竹報平安
Flying and dancing, various bamboo postures light,
Stock strong, joint perseverance, flying high towards the heaven.
Humble in nature, and dislike multi-color bright,
But, magnanimous and ambitious, confidence strengthen!
Faint fragrance 幽香
Fall delight 秋光正好