Cultivating Virtue: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Art

, Harvard Art Museums
  • Angle-Shouldered Bottle with Small Mouth
  • Water Dropper with Two Spouts, Each in the Form of a Crouching Frog, and with Plum and Rock Decor
  • Small, Circular Moon Flask with Bamboo Decor
  • Buddhist Triad: Amitabha Buddha Seated on a Lotus Throne with His Hands Held in the 'Bhŭmisparsa-mudrâ' and Flanked by Two Standing Bodhisattvas, Presumably Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta
  • Circular Water Dropper with Slightly Domed Top and Orchid Decor
  • Orchids and Rocks
  • Long-Necked, Globular Bottle with Bamboo and Blossoming Plum Decor
  • Wagtail on a Bramble
  • Branch of Blossoming Plum
  • Spray of Bamboo
  • Deep Circular Charger with Everted Lip and Blossoming Peony Decor
  • Storage Jar with Decoration of Rock, Chrysanthemums, and Insects
  • Water Dropper in the Form of a Leaping Carp
  • Moon Jar (Tal-hang-a-ri)
  • Square Bottle with Blossoming Plum Decor
  • Large Vase with Long, Straight, Cylindrical Neck and with Decoration of Blossoming and Fruiting Peach Branches
Harvard Art Museums

Inspired by the beauty and resilience of plants and flowers, East Asian poets and artists have imbued them with auspicious meaning, literary resonance, and moral overtones. For example, because they survive the harsh winter months, the pine, bamboo, and Chinese plum (Prunus mume) symbolize strength in the face of adversity and are referred to as the “Three Friends of Winter.” Flowers affiliated with the four seasons and twelve months are also pervasive themes. This gallery rotation presents a small selection of later East Asian paintings that feature popular botanical themes and symbols, complemented by an array of ceramics with similar motifs. Organized by Robert D. Mowry, Alan J. Dworsky Curator of Chinese Art; and Melissa A. Moy, Cunningham Assistant Curator of Asian Art, both in the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art, Harvard Art Museums.