Plum blossoms were first depicted as an independent subject by the eleventh-century Chan (Zen, in Japanese) monk Zhongren Huaguang. In this work by the otherwise unknown Buddhist monk Ni Jing, both composition and brushwork derive from the renowned Yuan-dynasty plum painter Wang Mian (d. 1359). The plum, the first flower to appear in spring, is celebrated along with bamboo and pine as one of the Three Friends of Winter. Admired for its purity and hardiness, sending forth new shoots and delicate blossoms from seemingly lifeless branches, the plum became a symbol of survival, rejuvenation, and longevity. Here, the tight clusters of pale blossoms and buds indicate that the plum has just begun to flower. The artist’s poem reads: Blossoms compete with the moon in luminosity,One hundred of them merge and make me suspect thatsnow has fragrance.Worldly men vie in boasting fine colors,Do not call for hand-scooped water to rinse off the pinkadornment.