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My Bonsai Thought


  In the picture, there is poetry

     In the poem, there is meaning

         In the silence, there is movemen

               In the movement, there is rhythm…


Some people say that my bonsai are contaminated penjing, and that my penjing are not authentic. Before going further, I would like to explain the difference between penjing and bonsai. Are penjing the same as bonsai?  Is there a difference in concept and philosophy? 


The answer is:  Yes… and No! It depends on the context we are discussing. This has long been a controversial issue since there are few articles written about penjing by competent sources from China.  Confusion on this matter can be seen in books, articles, and in online discussion forum threads. In these instances the two arts are considered to be the same — simply a matter of translation — but at other times they are referred to as two different art forms.  So what is the truth? 


Let’s start from the basic understanding of the words, “bonsai,” (Japanese) and “penjing” (Mandarin). Pen = pot, jing = view or landscape. penjing means “landscape in a pot”. Bonsai in Japanese means “ planted in a pot,”  which if translated into Chinese is  penjai or penzai. This simply means “plant in a pot.” Any plant that is in a pot is called penjai.  So penjing does not have the same meaning as bonsai, as we understand it today. What we call bonsai, in Mandarin is called shujuang penjing. In articles and discussion, the word shujuang is usually left off, leaving just the word penjing. So, in a very general context, bonsai is the same as penjing because we all know what we are talking about - by eliminating the word shujuang.  But in a specific context, penjing is different from bonsai.


Penjing has a broader context in this art form with its own specific nuance. Shujuang penjing  (bonsai) is just one of the styles in the broader penjing art. There are shanshui penjing (rock penjing), bigua penjing (wall-hanging penjing), shuihan penjing (water and land penjing), shushe penjing (tree and stone penjing)…etc…The basic philosophy of penjing is “Yuan yu je zan, Gao yu je zan,” which means “Inspired by nature, admired as superior to nature.”


With penjing we try and recreate the beauty of nature without eliminating the imperfections of nature.  There is a great deal of creative and natural freedom in how the artist may do this with penjing. The soul of penjing is revealed more in the whole presentation; the thematic message, the symbolism and poetry. The presentation is natural, without too much of the aesthetic depending on the anatomical details of the tree. Penjing is involved more with a subjective expression, with very strong individual emotional references. Anatomical perfection is not a main requirement in penjing because nature is imperfect. The technical engineering skill important to bonsai is not so important in penjing. Instead, the application of skill should be relevant to the tree only in order to successfully convey the thematic message to viewers. The essence of the whole principal in Penjing is “Hua jong you se, se jong you yu; Jin jong you dong, dong jong you diao,”  meaning “Inside the picture, there is poetry, inside the poem, there is meaning; in the silence, there is movement, in the movement, there is rhythm.” The objective aspect of penjing is to follow the phenomena of natural imperfection. The subjective aspect is based on balancing the presentation of the captured moment from nature with the implicit message of the theme. In the presentation of the message, nuance and symbolism should be used to accent the overall presentation. This fact requires imaginative interpretation by the artist and viewer. 


What I am doing with my own work is to combine the objective aspect of bonsai with the subjective aspect of penjing, the beauty of the structural refinement of bonsai with the inner beauty of the symbolic presentation of penjing, all to lend a unique nuance to the result. In my opinion, the term “authentic” has no relevance to art. An artist should be able to make his own statement of character and identity. I am not trying to create my own style, but rather trying to find new, innovative possibilities based on my own applications of aesthetic concepts.  There is no absolute in art and beauty. For appreciation of artistic creation to occur there should be an emotional interaction between the art object and the viewer. This requires communication between the art object and the viewer.    


If there is a strong Chinese flavor in my work it is simply a reflection of my personal taste and interest in Oriental philosophy, like poetic Chinese calligraphy or the sentimental and melancholy Tang poems.  

As has been said before, art is a living thing that continuously interacts with life through those who view it. The medium of bonsai is also a living subject that changes according to the rules of nature and horticulture. So the rules of bonsai art are based both on the rules of natural phenomena and the whims of individual and societal convention.  My definition of beauty may not be the same as someone else’s definition of beauty. Interpretation and perception of beauty are very individualistic. It depends on the viewer’s background, knowledge, culture, local social values, experiences, even the current condition of the viewer’s emotions. 


My work is a reflection of my personal feelings and attitude. In making bonsai, I am not too concerned with the final destination, but rather with the joyful process. I enjoy the slow process of revealing the character and identity of the tree — a process that brings my life into parallel with the tree’s life journey. This sort of endeavor is more of an active meditative process and the cultivation of a soulful relationship with the artistic medium, instead of simply a superficial exploration of the medium. The communication between my medium and me may not take place with verbal communication, but there is an echo of understanding, nonetheless.


My address :

Jl Batu Tulis VIII No.27-A

Jakarta 10120 - Indonesia

Tel. + 62-21-34833358, 34833359  Fax. + 62-21-3459486

Mobile:  + 62-816 808399

EMails:    or


More information……go to Page : Introduction