The JIN would like to thank Santa Fe Councilor Peter N. Ives, whose sponsorship will allow one day of the Convention Center's rental fees to be waived. Thank you for your support!
Santa Fe JIN has been celebrating Japanese culture in Santa Fe for over 12 years, and has produced a matsuri, a Japanese Cultural festival for 9 of those years. This year, in honor of the tenth matsuri, the theme will be sho chiku bai, (pine, bamboo, and plum) which are the good luck symbols for all sorts of celebrations in Japan. On March 22, 2014, you will see these symbols and the good luck and cheer that they represent at the Santa Fe JIN Japanese Cultural Festival held at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
These three elements, pine, bamboo, and plum, when grouped together in the Asian arts, are commonly known as the “three friends of winter” as they all survive and even flourish in the cold weather and hardship of the winter season. The actual term “three friends of winter” is believed to be first mentioned in a Chinese poem of the thirteenth century. During the Heian Period, the time of Tales of Genji (794-1192 ACE) this concept began to appear in Japan. In the Japanese arts, sho, chiku, and bai are found depicted in scrolls, screens, and imari porcelain, as well as in literature. By the Edo Period, the time of the Shoguns (1603-1868 ACE), the symbols came to be used for celebrations.
By depicting these three symbols together, an artist can evoke many emotions and understandings through the various attributes of these plants. The pine tree, sho in Japanese, is able to flourish and thrive with tenacious root systems that allow it to grow on rocky cliffs, burrowing deep and holding fast. Sho therefore symbolizes inner strength and a sense of endurance and permanence. Bamboo, chiku, is a symbol for longevity and resilience because it is both strong and flexible. It can bend and not break when even the strongest winds of winter blow and the deepest snows fall upon it. In Japan, the plum, bai, is the first tree to blossom, and symbolizes optimism amidst adversity. The beauty of the plum blossom appearing during the winter reminds us that spring is near and promises renewal, hope and joy.
Contemporary Japanese people consider the three plants to be “the three auspicious friends”, and their symbols appear on greeting cards and as designs stamped into seasonal sweets. They are on kimono, futon, carrying cloths, purses, saké labels, and just about everything to be found in daily life. You would see these symbols at the time of the lunar new year, at weddings and anniverseries and other celebrations. These symbols are highly auspicious and, while historically representing steadfastness, longevity and resilience, they now more simply symbolize happiness and optimism, and are present in almost all celebrations and festivals in Japan.
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