Prunus, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum are known collectively as the 'Four Gentlemen'. They represent dignity, quietude, fortitude and simplicity, which are the qualities every gentleman should have.
The inscriptions on the present brush pot are imperially composed poems, each inspired by the scene it accompanies, and may be read as follows:
Chun lan jin ri shi qi zhen
Yi zhong wang xiang zui ke qin
Di shi xian qing yao wang gu
Jie si ze ban pin ti ren'
Feng li shi pi qing zou lai
Yue zhong zha zhan wan fei long
yi shao yi zhan lang gan xing
Qian mu ru kan yan yu chong'
Ju you huang hua zai li jing
Ge lai hong zi huan duo xing
Rong ru chong yin zhong wu shu
Ren you ru si wu ke ting'
Tie gan bing hua bei lei hong
Mo gou bu xi bu zhi weng
Wei wen wu de tong gui li
Xi yu nan gong ku yi gong'
These inscriptions may be translated as:
Today I have come to discern the true quality of the spring orchid,
It has the scent of kings that is the most affable,
In a leisurely mood I relate to the ancient sage afar,
ruminating and appraising by the waterfront.
The bamboo strikes a pure chord in the wind,
and swiftly expands like a flying dragon under the light of the moon.
The tip of bamboo echoes a beautiful jade,
conjuring up an imagery veiled in smoke and rain.
Chrysanthemum has golden flowers and is recorded in the Classic of Rites,
I wonder where its red and purple colors and its ever-changing shapes come from?
The flurry flower mimics a scholar in pursuit of a solitary life,
and there are men who attempt the same.
Iron stems, icy flowers and red buds,
with contours delineated in ink.
My writing inspired by it,
and finds happy phrases harder to come by than the bitter ones.'
A white jade brush pot of slightly larger size (10.5 cm.) and similar faceted shape, also dated to the 18th century and carved with the 'Four Gentleman' in low relief, was sold in these rooms 24-25 March 2001, lot 1469.