Grace and resilience

Persistence and regeneration

The plum blossoms of JIN Junming 金俊明 (1602-1675) suggest varied moments of grace and fortitude. As a subject, they announce the end of winter, the beginning of spring. Viewing them one thinks of cold, dark mornings when there is only a hint of change, mostly imperceptible except through such harbingers as this early flower.

The plant itself – and certainly paintings of it – combine delicacy and ruggedness. The branches are brittle, their bark shingled and ragged. The painter renders these in broken, undulating grey brushstokes. By contrast, the blossoms are fine and tight, clean and perishable. The painting of these flowers takes advantage of the silk's capacity to fix fine lines – they are sharp and clear, like a knife's edge.

The inscription later added to this album tells us that these images are of an actual plant that had flourished (with careful tending) for many centuries among the Buddhist statuary that lines the hill behind Hangzhou's West Lake. When the album recently changed hands, the new owner found tucked in with it a recent snapshot of the plant as it presently survives – a gnarled root with a few green shoots.



Jin Junming 金俊明 (1602-1675)
Plum Blossoms
Album of 8 leaves, ink on silk
23.5 x 16.2 cm
Private collection