This elegant screen is carved with the highly auspicious motif of the ‘Three Friends of Winter’ (suian sanyou), with the pine and bamboo which remain green through the cold winter and the prunus, the first tree to blossom each year. These three plants are representative of fortitude and uprightness in adverse conditions, as well as symbolic of longevity. The earliest mention of this theme is found in the writings of the Song loyalist Lin Chingxi (1241-1310), although it quickly became a popular decorative motif from the Yuan through the Qing period.
A screen similarly carved on one side with a flowering prunus among rockwork, and on the reverse inscribed with a poetic inscription was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 30th April 1991, lot 315, and again at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29th May 2007, lot 1385; and four plaques with floral sprays, from the Yongshougong collection, included in the exhibition A Romance with Jade, Palace Museum, Beijing, cat. no. 22, were sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1518.