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Yin and Yang

Budi Sulistyo, Indonesia
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"Yin" and "Yang" is a philosophical term in old Chinese culture or Daoism consists of two main elements that describes positive and negative, day and night or male and female; two opposing things that compliment one to the other. When I saw my two diospyros bonsai I was suddenly inspired of designing a penjing with the elements of yin and yang.
Diospyros montana is a local plant originally from Indonesia. The real name is unknown, but bonsai lovers called it "Mustam". The story of the name is a bit unique. It was in 1985 when many bonsai people looked for new bonsai materials. One popular species was local elm called Ulmus lancaefolia. Ulmus material had a high value at that time, so that people wanted to look for wild ulmus in nature. A person called Tam who lived in East Java found a plant from the wild which leaf was in the same size of that of ulmus. Happily he went home with the plant and told his friend that he had found an ulmus. When his fellow bonsai friends saw the plant, they laughed at him, knowing that the plant was not an ulmus. They mocked him and called the plant as mustam with the meaning of ulMus of Tam. As nobody knows the real name of the plant, people up to this time call it as mustam. Diospyros montana is like a small persimmon with black bark. Some of them bear flowers, but never bear fruits.

Male flowers

We call them male diospyros. While the other bears bigger flowers that change into beautiful fruits.

Fruits and female flowers

I had two mustam bonsai that I did not satisfy with any of them. The first was a female diospyros growing on the lime stone in a rectangular pot.

Female Tree

It always bears fruits that would stay in the tree for almost six months. But the shape of the tree growing on the rock was not that good. It had no good character as a bonsai. The second was a male mustam that also grew on the lime stone on the black stone slab.

Male Tree

It had a nice trunk, but still I thought that it was lack of good quality as a bonsai. The flowers are smaller and never changed into fruits. I just thought of combining them into one unique penjing. Fortunately I found a lime stone slab in a stone seller close to my house.


The size and color was similar to the material under the tree. I thought that it would be fit to the combination. I imagined that it would be like a small piece of lime Stone Island with a pair of trees growing on higher rocks as part of the island.

I tried to put the female tree on the left with the flow growing toward the left, while the male tree stayed erect on the right side with the flow slightly swaying to the left. I found the height of the two of them with the harmonious movement to the left were of nice combination. The male was bigger and higher than the female; an ideal couple. The stone under the male tree was on the right side only. I was not satisfied with it as the balance was not that good. I took a piece of similar stone and put it in the left side of the male tree.

Adding a peice of stone

With a peice of stone

After adding some more bonsai mixed, moss and grass the composition looked more reasonable.


But where was the "Yin" and "Yang"? It had no significant sign. It was just like two trees one with fruits and the other had no fruits. No body would think of them as a female and a male tree. So what to do? I defoliated the leaves of the trees.


Some fertilizers with phosphate base were added in the bonsai mixed. One week later the flowers of both trees grew. The male tree was full with male flowers that were smaller in size and had no prospective fruit.

Male Flowers

It resembled "Yang" While the female tree was full of fruits and some female flowers which was bigger in size resembled the "Yin" aspect.

Female Flowers

Unfortunately the beauty of Yin and Yang could only be enjoyed just less than a week. The flowers will not last long and soon were dropped off from the tree. Ultimate beauty was not last forever, but at least it had been achieved.


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