Throughout Asia birds and flowers have been cherished for their beauty, but they have carried rich symbolic messages as well. For example, the lotus—a delicate bloom born of the muck of a pond—was adopted early in India as a Buddhist metaphor for the beauty of the soul that can emerge from the mire of human existence. In China, Korea, and Japan, mandarin ducks have been emblems of marital fidelity, while hawks serve as symbols of military prowess. Paintings of native Japanese birds and flowers have been appreciated primarily for their evocation of the seasons and the traditional poetic emotions associated with them.
This exhibition, drawn from the Museum’s collections, explores the distinctive visual language of bird-and-flower painting that has facilitated dialogue across Asia between man and nature.