|Vietnamese alphabet||Tứ Quân Tử|
The Four Gentlemen, also called the Four Noble Ones, in Chinese art refers to four plants: the plum blossom, the orchid, the chrysanthemum, and the bamboo. The term compares the four plants to Confucianist 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.
The Four Gentlemen have been used in Chinese painting since the time of the Chinese 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 spring, the orchid for summer, the chrysanthemum for autumn, and the bamboo for winter), the four are used to depict the unfolding of the seasons through the year.
Orchids and Bamboo by Zheng Xie, c. 1740
Bamboo at Qingbige Pavilion by Ke Jiusi, c. 1338
Chrysanthemums from the Xian'e Changchun Album by Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766)
Plum Blossoms by Sun Long and Chen Lu, early Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
- Paintings of the Four Gentlemen at China Online Museum