Group planting
―― A big landscape in
a small pot
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Classification of beauty in the bonsai tree form – Bonsai Styles
Bonsai trees bring the beauty of nature right into a small pot by recreating
the splendor of foliage from the natural world.  The various shapes that
emulate natural plants have come to be classified by many bonsai enthusiasts
throughout the long history of the bonsai tradition.  These form
classifications presented herein can be broadly broken up into the two
categories of forms natural to the plants and forms steeped in visual pleasure
as a result of being accomplished in special natural environments.  The bonsai
trees you typically see will generally belong to one of the classifications
described here.  But of course there are bonsai plants that do not strictly fit
into these categories, namely plants with characteristics that span several
categories in one swoop.  While paying attention to the form type is definitely
preferable for ensuring that the bonsai grows into a beautiful creation, it is
not necessary to confine yourself to the classifications themselves.
Bonsai Styles
Classic Bonsai of Japan
Formal upright form
――Basis of bonsai style 
Chokkan trees stretch to the heavens like a gothic cathedral in a straight
upright line.  Imagining a cypress or cedar form is the easiest way to explain
Chokkan form.  The divine beauty of the Chokkan bonsai, seen stretching
straight upward from any angle it is viewed, is breathtaking.  People
approaching such a tree feel as if they are enveloped under the branches and
granted a moment of heart-warming peace.
Chokkan bonsai may seem easy to create because its form is so simple.  
But its bilaterally symmetric form in a triangular arrangement emanating out
from the central trunk spells doom for the visual balance if even one branch
dies.  It is said that the bonsai tradition starts and ends with the
form – the Chokkan is considered both the base of all bonsai forms and the
most difficult form to achieve as well.

Broom form
――Sweeping the sky
The Hokidachi bonsai gets its name from having a form that looks similar
to a "broom" (
hoki) with the brush end "sticking upwards" (dachi).  The
Hokidachi stands upright just like the Chokkan, but the branches start
radiating outwards from clustered points of origin midway up the trunk, thin
out as they climb upwards, and form a fine semi-circle dome at the top.   
Perhaps the trees most fit for the
Hokidachi style are elms, maples, and
zelkovas seen stretching their large limbs magnificently across the sky on
tree-lined paths in parks or trails.
Slanting form
――Unbalanced image of stability
The Shakan bonsai is meant to represent trees growing in harsh
environments like the strong winds of a storm swept seashore.  The
Fukinagashi pays homage to even stronger winds, with a form that stoops to
one side.  You might sense the strength required to grow in such harsh
climates emanating from these trees.  The roots on the side opposite of the
trunk slant stretch firmly into the ground in order to pull and support the
trunk as it is whipped around by the wind.  At first sight these trees appear
to be unstable.  But in truth, they maintain a stable composition through an
intricate balance.  Can you feel the severe side blowing winds suggested by
these bonsai trees?
Informal upright form
――Romantic aura of twisting and bending
In contrast to the Chokkan bonsai, the Moyohgi expresses the beauty of
curves in the trunk and branches.  Like old trees dwelling in hills and fields,
Moyohgi evokes the dignity, grace, and refinement of trunks and
branches that have bent and twisted over the long years.  Powerful stability
is exuded from the roots to the trunk, with branches springing out from the
outside of trunk curvature. The overall tree form is balanced by the length
and angle of the branches.  In other words, the core stability obtained by
balancing the arrangement of complex curved portions is what gives the
Moyohgi its beauty. In addition, trees with an even stronger curvature are
Bankan (coiled trunk).
As evidenced by their frequent appearance in paintings for stage background
designs in traditional Japanese
Noh drama performances, Moyohgi bonsai
trees are the most well known among the different bonsai types.  In fact,
they are considered representative of the bonsai tradition.  Also, another
reason for their popularity is that, excluding cypress and cedar with their
tendency to stretch straight upwards, most trees can be made into
bonsai trees.
――Overflowing potential of growth
Kengai and Han-kengai bonsai trees are grown such that the trunk and
branches stretch down below the roots.  They droop down from their pots.  
The curvature of line in the trunk and branches hanging down at a sharp
angle from the pot is the feature point in observation.  
Kengai is said to be
one of the oldest bonsai forms, and is particularly popular in the class of
SHOHIN bonsai (small-size bonsai: up to 8” in height).  Trees with branches
that extend lower than the bottom of the pot are known as
Kengai, and
trees that do not reach to the bottom of the pot are known as
When Shohaku (evergreen conifer) bonsai trees
strike a
Kengai form, they often suggest to the
viewer an image of a powerful will to live shooting its
roots into the meager soil spotting a sheer cliff and
hanging on to life for all its worth in the face of
adverse conditions.  And when plants that give forth
flowers and fruit take the
Kengai form, they are
frequently said to emit the atmosphere of a tree
lazily taking in the warm sunlight and stretching out
its limbs to its heart's content.
or Sharikan, or Sabamiki
――Weaving of life and death
In the natural world, the Sharikan effect can be seen mainly among large, old
conifer trees such as pine, cedar, and juniper.  Over hundreds of years,
trunks damaged by strong winds, snow blankets, snow slides, or lightening
die along with the branches protruding from them.  The bark on the dead
portion decays and the rigid core of the tree is stripped bare.  This process of
a portion of a tree living in a harsh natural environment dying and becoming
bleached is called
Sabamiki or Sabakan.  When deadwood is present on the
branches as well, the term
Jin is used.  However, though the tree itself is
bleached, a dark brown
Mizusui (water path that sucks water from the trunk)
remains, and verdant leaves spring plentifully in spots.  In the bonsai world,
people use knife tools to carve into the trunk and achieve this effect, taking
care not to damage the
The tree is dead, and yet it is still living.  Perhaps this form in which life and
death are intertwined and intermingled in the flow of time hints at the
meaning of life and symbolizes a subtle and profound worldview of the East.
Literati form
――Tasteful elegance
The Bunjingi bonsai emulates trees growing in the wasteland soil of sandy
and barren areas.  The trunks are thin from the bottom to top, the branches
are thin and sparse, and the overall form is thin and wiry.  
Moyogi trunks and
branches are thinned, and the lower branches are clipped away to reduce the
branch count.  The origins of this style lie in trees depicted in the
(sumi ink paintings) brought over from China to Japan along with Zen
Buddhism in the 12th to 13th centuries.  These tree illustrations captured
the hearts of the Japanese people living in those days, and gradually came to
be reproduced as bonsai trees.
Since ancient times in China, the word "
Bunjin" has been applied to the
various forms of intellectuals (literati) that created, maintained, and passed
down a culture based on rich knowledge and wisdom.  The term is found in
Chinese written records as early as the 2nd to 3rd centuries B.C.  In addition
to the fields of philosophy, history, rhetoric, and calligraphy,
Bunjin involved
themselves in
sumi-e painting endeavors such as Bunjinga painting, musical
performance arts such as the Chinese harp, pastimes such as the game of
go, and arts and crafts pursuits such as seal designs, fashion and interior
design, bonsai, and gardening.
The typical traits that characterize the
Bunjin ideal are, in general, versatility
of talent and a wide range of interests, a dedication to the pursuit of tasteful
elegance on the level of an artist, the loftiness of soul and anti-conventional
spirit of a monk, a need for seclusion, an amateur spirit by avocation, and an
appreciation of scenic beauty.
Among the
Sumi-e paintings brought into Japan was a type of painting
known as "
Bunjinga," painted by Bunjin as expressions of their philosophies
and tastes.  Japanese intellectuals of the late 19th century especially
identified with the image evoked by these Chinese
Bunjin and favored bonsai
styles that emulated the
Bunjingi depicted in Bunjinga.  In the simple and
light forms free of all extraneous parts depicted by thin trunks and branches
and a minimal branch count, and in the elegance of trunks and branches free
to grow out in any direction, perhaps they felt a reflection of free aloofness
that transcends desires and the constraints of society.  Or, perhaps in these
trees they envisioned the peace of mind that envelopes the soul as a result
of training in self-improvement conducted in solitude away from the idleness
of everyday life.  Or maybe they enjoyed these forms because in them they
saw the spirit of the Japanese aesthetic of
wabi-sabi, wherein the forms and
flaws of nature are seen as beauty.
The attraction of the Bunjingi bonsai tree is in its simplicity.  Some even say
that the ultimate
Bunjingi bonsai is a tree with only one branch.  Because
such simplicity is key, the spatial design sense and technique of the tree
artist are incredibly important.  And if the resulting tree is elegant, this
simplicity is surprisingly complementary to both old Asian style houses and
modern building rooms.  However, because maintaining the trunk and
branches in their thin state over many years is difficult, they are not often
seen in such settings.
――A symbol of diverse intimacy
A bonsai tree with one trunk is called Tankan, and trees divided into two or
more trunks are classified as
Takan.  A bonsai tree with two trunks is called
Sokan, a tree with three trunks is a Sankan, and trees with five or more
trunks are called
Kabudachi.  All types have an odd number of trunks, except
for the
Sokan of course.  Developing an even number of trunks is not
practiced.  One reason for this is said to be that Japanese people have
preferred odd numbers from days of old.  However, the most important
reason is the visual design.  If the number of trunks is even, the environment
inside the pot becomes too organized and sterile, and the sense of presence
is limited to the potted space.  But odd numbers emanate the scenery into
the area outside the pot and bestow a sense of dynamism upon the bonsai.
Bonsai trees with many trunks sometimes look like
Yose-ue bonsai.
The Sokan is a bonsai tree with two trunks coming from one set of roots.  
The tall and thick trunk is called the
Syukan (main trunk) and the thin and
short trunk is called the
Fukukan (sub-trunk) or Komiki (child trunk).  The
tree is trimmed so that branches from the two trunks do not invade each
others' space, and a beautiful balance that allows both trees to stand in
harmony is achieved.  Do they look like a parent and child standing together,
or like an intimate married couple or pair of lovers?
Root connected
――An anecdote in the forest
The Neturanari seems similar to the Kabudachi in the sense that multiple
trees are connected by one set of roots.  It also seems similar to the
in the sense that multiple trees are standing side by side.  However, in truth
this tree is completely different from the
Kabudachi and Yose-ue.  The
Neturanari is meant to represent a small piece of natural history in which a
tree is tumbled over by natural forces like snow, wind, or lightning, sinks into
the ground, and then starts a little group of trees from the branches in the
soil that thicken into trunks-like entities and spring up from the ground –
sometimes even building a tiny grove from the remains.
Look at the places where the roots and trunks are linked and at the gaps
between the trunks and enjoy searching for a sense of the recreation of a
drawn out chronological process.
Exposed root form
--An unintended ensemble
of roots
Sometimes floods or mudslides wash away the soil around tree roots,
exposing them.  When the exposed roots live on after this experience, they
are often beaten by the wind and turn into trunks.  When this happens to a
tree, it is called
Neagari.  This may seem to be an extremely rare
phenomenon in nature, but it happens surprisingly often.  Some trees that
undergo a
Neagari process in the natural world possess such beauty that
they could be transplanted into a pot and enjoyed as bonsai.
Roots exposed and interwoven in intricate patterns can display an incredible
three-dimensional formative design achieved in nature and exhibit a deep and
profound harmony.  When creating
Neagari as a bonsai, wire is applied to the
roots to adjust their shape and the number of roots is cropped through
trimming.  These processes must be performed over a long period of time.
or Planted on rock
――More interesting with
The Ishitzuki is a bonsai form that recreates the natural scenery achieved
when trees and stones reside side by side.  Using stone allows the bonsai
artist to create a more detailed display of a mountain area, ocean scene, or
island backdrop.  This makes the scenery even easier to imagine for the
viewer.   The placement of stone can determine whether a scene is meant to
emulate an expansive faraway view or an intimate close-up shot of a small
area.  The
Ishitzuki resembles the Yose-ue in that it is closer to being a
miniature reproduction of the natural world.
 Ishitzuki trees can be divided up
into three broad categories depending on the way the stones are used.
The first category is the most
Ishitzuki.  A stone is
placed vertically, a very small amount of
soil is arranged on the stone surface,
and a plant is grown in that spot.  The
tree is planted so that stone looks like a
large rocky formation or mountain.  For
example, some
Ishitzuki trees are meant
to be reminiscent of trees growing along
rock formations and cliffs in deep
mountains and dark valleys, or craggy
areas on the seashore beaten by heavy
waves.  In place of a pot, these trees are
planted directly on rocks and placed
directly in humidity/drip trays.
The second type involves a rock placed
lengthwise just as the first type.  However,
the form is arranged such that the roots
wrap around the stone.  Over long years,
if the trunk grows to cover the stone and
the two forms merge into one, the "aged"
aspect is said to be expressed well.  This
in turn is considered to imbue the tree
arrangement with incredible value.  
Because the tree and stone are arranged
in a pot with the soil piled up over the top,
the roots extend into the piled up portion
of the pot.  Maple bonsai trees are often
seen taking this format.
The third type consists of plants grown
in soil placed on top of a flat, plate-like
stone which is used as a pot.  A multitude
of plants spring up from several roots,
just like the
Yose-ue.  This arrangement
can be used to symbolize natural settings
such as a remote island floating lonely on
the sea, the shore of a river, or an
expansive forest scene.
The Yose-ue bonsai is a group of plants emerging from several sets of
roots grown in a shallow pot or flat stone meant to symbolize a grove or
forest setting.  Groups with a small number of plants can resemble
Kabudachi bonsai.  In the past, the Yose-ue type of bonsai was achieved
simply by lining up plants growing in nature.  About 70 years ago, the rules
of perspective in art began to permeate bonsai culture, and depth and
expansiveness in scenery began make themselves known in arrangements.  
Implementing perspective was an epoch-making event which resulted in
Yose-ue taking on a more advanced level of realism.  Looking at an example
Yose-ue gives the impression of looking at a real forest or copse of trees.  
You may sense grandeur of scale completely unexpected given its small size.  
In the sense of being a miniature recreation of natural scenery, the
could be considered the format closest to the intent of the bonsai art form.
Creating the perfect Hokidachi is extremely
difficult.  A suitable nursery tree must be carefully
selected, and proper care must be constantly
lavished on the tree for many years.  Moreover,
sometimes a suitable nursery tree does not
appear even after planting 100 seeds.
Copyright : 2009-2010 BonsaiExperience.com All Rights Reserved.
Shaping Aesthetics
Ishitzuki is one of the oldest forms of bonsai, and it is even said by some
that the bonsai tradition began from efforts to recreate in pots the natural
scenery of stones and trees grouped together. 12th century records indicate
that these arrangements were being created in Japan as early as that
century.  It takes time to create a superb
Ishitzuki specimen.  When the tree
and stone become one after a long period of time and any traces of artificial
arrangements made by the bonsai artist are erased, then a true
Ishitzuki has
been created.
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For Your Reference
--Article: From WWW.Bonsai 4Me.Com
--Article: From Bonsai Primer
--Article: From Bonsai Primer
--Article: From Bonsai Clubs International. PowerPoint edited for viewing on
the Internet.
--From KoB Forum
--Article: From WWW.Bonsai 4Me.Com
--Article: From Bonsai for Beginners
--Article: From Bonsai Primer
--Article: From Bonsai for Beginners
--From the Article of ABS Bonsai Journal
--Article: From WWW.Bonsai 4Me.Com
--Article: From Bonsai Primer
--Article: From Knowledge of Bonsai
--Article: From Knowledge of Bonsai
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