About Penjing
Extracted from Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants, 1967
Wu Yee Sun


A pot of beautiful bonsai is the result of the grower's skillful planning and correct cultivation methods which are the result of years of experience. Besides possessing a basic knowledge of horticulture, the grower must have literary taste as well as a high degree of patience. Also he has to be well read in the theory and practice of art. He has to study and observe Nature and good paintings. In this way he will be able to achieve originality.

The most important thing in bonsai is the style. We know that the cultivation of bonsai must first be based on the natural qualities of the plant and that artificial training should be kept to a minimum. Nature endows each species with special qualities and too much artificial shaping would ruin the tree. For example, one cannot apply the age-old strength of the pine or the cypress to the delicate beauty of the maple or the bamboo. The Glyptostrobus pensilis which is often found near the paddy fields in Canton, the fir tree growing on the hill, and the Bombax malabaricum (wood cotton tree) which grows abundantly in Hong Kong, are plants which stand tall and upright against the sky and cannot be artificially trained as dwarfed trees with an ancient appearance or as a cascade plant, because this will be against Nature and the result, instead of an artistic pot plant, would be something grotesque and ugly. For this reason, before deciding upon the style and arrangement of a plant, the grower must first study the species and in the process of dwarfing retain its good points and get rid of the bad, just as the experienced artist who while preserving the characteristics of the obJect he paints brings out its best with masterly strokes of his brush.

Before applying the pruning-shears the grower has to study very carefully the subject on hand or otherwise he will be like the careless tailor who ruins his material by the first mistaken cut of his scissors. The highest aims of a grower is to produce a bonsai having the qualities of a picture which conforms to Nature. Although there are numerous variations of style, we may group them under two main classes, i.e. those with an ancient appearance and those with a graceful appearance. The styles may also bo classified as follows:

1. single-tree
2. two-tree
3. multiple-trunk on one stump
4. the forest style
5. cascade plant
6. semiroasoade plant
7. overlooking-the-water style
8. the reclining style
9. the branch-out style
10 the dropping style
11. mother-with-son style
12. rock-clinging style.

With regard to rock-clinging bonsai, it must be noted that the rock used must be a suitable one, and the roots of the plant should be embedded firmly in the cracks of the rock to give the impression of an ancient tree growing out of the rock.

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