Hermits refer to people who have no problems living in solitude. It does not necessarily mean that they chose to be reclusive, but just that they don’t do things intentionally to seek attention or affection.
In modern times, the most common way that we come across the word hermit is when referencing hermit crabs. And because of the characteristics of the cute crustaceans, people labelled hermits are often perceived as timid, introvert, weak, etc.
Maybe these days the words nomads or wanderlust could be more appropriate 😀
Nevertheless in Chinese culture, people of the highest caliber are often hermits. It is seen as a virtue for one to shun the limelight even though one is great at what he does.
For example, Zhuge lIang (諸葛亮) the military strategist from romance of the 3 kingdoms fame was living in seclusion high in the mountains. Nobody even heard of him before he finally left the mountain to take on the revered general Cao Cao.
In the famous novel Tian Long Ba Bu (天龙八部) about pugilists fighting for dominance in the world of martial arts, the person whose skills was convincingly supreme to everyone else was a monk tasked with housekeeping the library and sweeps the premises daily. Nobody knew he even existed until he appeared out of nowhere to break up a fight between two of the big characters in the story. He had no desire for power or fame. By the way, the author of this novel is Jin Yong (金庸) who is like the Stan Lee of China. It is almost impossible for any Chinese not to have hear of his novels.
The point of all these information is to say that in ancient China, hermits refer to people with very accomplished credentials and remarkable skill. Who have no desire for fame and fortune, preferring to live the simple life.
So when someone is referred to as a hermit, it refers to a remarkable person who should be respected. Underestimate him at your own peril.
This arrangement was immortalized by the famous artist Chen Hongshou (陳洪綬) in a painting of the 3 flowers. The 3 plants were meant to specifically represent the scholar Lin Bu (林逋), the official Tao Yuanming (陶淵明), the imperial family member Zhao Mngjian (趙孟堅).
The 3 hermits of flowers is most often observed as an artwork painting. They can also sometimes be found on porcelain kitchen ware. They are meant to convey the message of nobility, ability, and humility.