In Chinese art, the Four Gentlemen, also called the Four Noble Ones, are four plants: the plum blossom, the orchid, the bamboo, and the chrysanthemum. 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 Song dynasty (960–1279) because of their refined beauty, and were later adopted in other parts of East Asia by artists in Japan and Korea. As they represent the four different seasons (the plum blossom for winter, the orchid for spring, the bamboo for summer, and the chrysanthemum for autumn), 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)
- Paintings of the Four Gentlemen at China Online Museum