New Articles

New Galleries

What is a Shohin-bonsai?

Text, and photos by Morten Albek, Denmark
Discuss this article >>

Acer palmatum, Mame-bonsai
Height: 7cm / 3 inches

Shohin is the Japanese word for "a-tiny-thing". And one can ask how to define the measures or visual weight of"tiny thing"?

Yes, it is a case to be discussed, but nevertheless, there are some standard rules set up in order to better understand the measures,and to standardize rules when it comes to shows and competitions. The basic rules are demanding that the Shohin-bonsai may not be higher than 25cm, when measured from rim of the pot to the top of the tree.

But at the same time it has to be mentioned,that these measures are not sharply outlined.

The main "rule" is that you must be able to hold the Shohin-bonsai in one hand, and it has to express the beauty of a"little thing".

Shohin Size

The exact measure of the height of the tree is therefore less important, but it is difficult to achieve the feeling of a "little thing",a one hand bonsai,when it is higher than 25 cm / 10 inches.

A very slim and elegant tree will easily override the limit in height, and will still be the expression of a"tiny thing",a Shohin.

Mame Size

At the same time it seems that Shohin canít be small enough. The expression of a small Mame,which is less than 10cm / 4 inches in height,can be a stunning sight, when it evokes the picture of a mature big tree in the viewers mind.

All together, a Shohin-bonsai in its expression has to be a"tiny thing".

Shohin-bonsai is less than 25 cm in height.

Gafu-bonsai or Miyabi-bonsai are high quality bonsai, from less than 25cm in height to 13cm in height.

Mame Bonsai or bean-size bonsai is 10 centimetres in maximum height or lower, which includes Mini-size bonsai.

Mini-bonsai is 7.0cm or less in height.

The sizes described here are guidelines, and in the case of exhibitions it is the judges that select the standards.


The fact, that a Shohin can override the rules of heights, as in the case of a very slim tree,seems paradoxical. In the case of a very valuable tree, with great artistic expression and age, it is possible to forget the 25 cm/ 10 inches limit of a tree's height.

The so called Wafu category, which covers the very appreciated and valuable small trees of Japan, is not concerned with the measures. The most important aspect here is just to have the impression of a tiny tree. And that includes the possibility to be able to hold the tree in just one hand.


A Shohin-bonsai can be made in the same styles and forms as bigger bonsai. Everything is just scaled downto reveal simplicity and illusion. But it certainly demands a very high level of precision by the artist when arranging branches, forming dead wood etc..

Just a few misplaced branches or leaves can affect the harmonious picture, and might spoil the impression and visualization of a big tree. Instead it will show a simple plant in a pot.

All the experiences and detailed work with Shohin-bonsai can be transferred and reapplied into the refining work with larger trees. In this way the small trees teach the big ones to improve in quality.

Shohin-bonsai display

Discuss this article >>