Plum Blossom and Moon

This brief collection of plum blossom haiku celebrates the “Winter Gentleman”. In the art of Chinese painting, the “Four Gentlemen” are plum blossom, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum. The order of these flowers agrees with their corresponding seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. In addition to their importance in Chinese painting, the Four Gentlemen, also called the Four Noblemen or Four Friends, all play an important role in Chinese culture.

Pink and White Plum Blossoms in Moonlight - So Shizan, late 18th century
Great moon
woven in plum scent,
all mine.

 Kobayashi Issa (1763–1827) was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest known for his haiku poems and journals. He is better known as simply Issa, a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea. Sometimes Issa is lyrical and eloquent; sometimes he is tongue-in-cheek, and sometimes he is very mischievous!  Issa is considered one of the four great Haiku Masters, along with Basho (1644-1694), Buson (1716- 1784), and Shiki (1867-1902).

Moon, plum blossoms,
this, that,
and the day goes.
~ Issa
Dark red plum blossoms covered in snow symbolize winter, but are also harbingers of spring

Plum blossoms (méi-huā) are one of the most beloved flowers in China. They bloom most vibrantly in the winter snow, after the autumn plants lose their leaves and before the spring plants begin to bloom. They represent resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. 

Plum blossoms are the epitome of exquisite elegance, symbolizing inner beauty and gentle humility in challenging circumstances.

The scent of plum blossoms
on the misty mountain path
a big rising sun

~ Basho


Spring too, very soon!
They are setting the scene for it —
plum tree and moon.

~ Basho

Plum, Pine and Bamboo , 1942 - two artists seals: Chen Shuren (1883 - 1948) Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953)

A haiku master gives us advice on writing poetry:

“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one – when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there.”

~ Basho

The Japanese Zen poet Matsuo Basho (Matsuo Munefusa) (1644-94) had earned the status of a samurai warrior, when he gave it all up to become a poet.  He is credited  with elevating haiku to a highly refined art that goes far beyond counting syllables.  To learn more about Basho, click here: Basho and the Art of Haiku

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