In traditional China, most women artists were either courtesans who entertained members of the schol(…)
In traditional China, most women artists were either courtesans who entertained members of the scholar-official class, or were daughters of scholar-official families who practiced their art as amateurs. Zhou Xi and Zhou Hu exemplify the latter; daughters of the literati painter Zhou Rongqi, they were also students of Wen Shu, one of China’s foremost female literati painters. The Zhou sisters often worked collaboratively, as they did on this painting.In addition to presenting intimate views of nature, bird-and-flower paintings also convey auspicious meanings. The two birds symbolize marital happiness. Crabapple (haitang) and magnolia (yulan) together form a rebus for Jade Hall, connoting wishes for wealth and honor. Flowers are also equated with aspects of feminine beauty: the white magnolia represents purity, and pinks (shizhu) are admired for their fragrance and long flowering season.