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The Four Gracious Plants 《ume flower, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo》

China-ink paintings that depict ume flowers, orchids, chrysanthemums, and bamboo are called mukme, mukran, mukguk, and mukjuk. Together they are called ‘sagunja’.
There is a particular reason why they are called sagunja.
Among the various plants, the ume flower has a clear fragrance during the cold of winter and awakens spring. Orchids blossom lonesomely in the deep mountain valleys, Chrysanthemums flourish in late autumn, and bamboo keeps its greenish leaves even during the winter. All these ecological factors are similar to the characteristics of Gunja (the man of virtue).
A long time ago, Asian people thought the quality of Gunja was his good moral character and intelligence. People acknowledged Gunja as having good personality values coming from a noble nature and not his appearance. So when they drew sagunja, they were more focused on the nature of the subject than its appearance. So the nobles highly praised the painting skills that showed the abstract angles and various colors that touched on the spirit and mind of sagunja. Sagunja was used as medium for meditation and wealthy lives.
That means sagunja is not only the painting but also the integrations of Oriental cultures and the spiritual meanings and values. Usually sagunja is introduced in the order of mae, nan, guk, and juk. These are the four seasons; spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
But traditionally, acquiring the techniques starts with the basic, simple form. Starting with orchids and then bamboo, ume flowers, and then chrysanthemums.

 


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