Author Topic: Define the Penjing Styles  (Read 5878 times)

bretts

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Define the Penjing Styles
« on: February 02, 2011, 12:20 PM »
Had a great debate on chat about how to define or explain the essence of what makes penjing, penjing.
There are many schools of penjing and finding illustrated pictures of the different styles is very difficult. Robert Steven has said he has a book coming out on the subject and we have a Young guy taught by the Chinese that states he has a book coming out on the subject as well.
Lindsay Farr's world of bonsai has some reference in that he was very surprised at what he found when he went looking for it in China.
Many know Penjing as landscapes and such but what I find most interesting is comparing single tree penjing to single tree bonsai.
After considering any penjing I could see and discussing the matter with others I found Deborah Koreshoff explination in her great book Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy The best simplified explination.
Quote
Bonsai though is an art and all art is stylized to some degree. In many ways the difference between Chinese and Japanese bonsai can be likened to the difference between poetry and prose. The first seems more heightened, more stylized, while prose superficially imparts a feeling of "naturalness".
I believe that these aspects of Penjing are finding their way back into our bonsai and this is can be seen in Lindsays WOB series where he searches for the original penjing.
So how would you explain the difference between Chinese Penjing and the mainstream bonsai of today. Or maybe you would like to suggest there is little difference?
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2011, 01:41 PM »
Not all encompassing, but a good starting point would be to first define the Japanese art of bonsai and the Chinese penjing.  Of course there will be more to it than that, as there should be. 

However, leaving it merely to "one is prose while the other is poetry" leaves much to be desired and doesn't really help with a definition in the least.

So, how do you define penjing?  What about bonsai?
 

bwaynef

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2011, 02:54 PM »
And given Koreshoff's quote, which is she calling Prose and which Poetry?
 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2011, 05:10 AM »
Deb's quote suggests that Penjing is more poetry than prose. I read this quote after considering the subject for some weeks(months if you include trying to categorize pictures of trees with the varied penjing schools), with much discussion and various opinions and this quote was taken from the end of a chapter in Debs book summarising the issue. So I can understand it gives less meaning out of this context.
When I get a little spare time I will go through the chapter and convey more of what she suggests. 

It is really the essence of penjing that I am considering and not a way to classify it. Penjing can be associated with bad roots and other flaws but what is the magic that happens when we see great penjing.
But in the debate there seemed to be some disagreement on what we actually see as Penjing. I suggest as Lindsay Farr does in his World of Bonsai Series that there has been a melding of the classic Japanese and Chinese style to some degree. Robert Steven is said to merge the two in his works.
This I guess is my interest as well. In Bonsai generally we fix make use of or hide faults we see in the material. Penjing to me does much more of making use of the faults in the material.
This is the poetry of Penjing to me. They don't see them as faults but as the beauty of nature. Concentrating on the beauty of the material at hand instead of forcing it into the shape of a miniature tree.

I found the suggestion that Kimura's work could be classed as poetry very interesting and not an angle I had considered it from before.  It makes me wonder at the moment If Kimura is akin to the penjing thinking of styling with less care on recreating a miniature tree but in the poetry of the material at hand.
 

bwaynef

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2011, 10:27 AM »
Quote
Bonsai though is an art and all art is stylized to some degree. In many ways the difference between Chinese and Japanese bonsai can be likened to the difference between poetry and prose. The first seems more heightened, more stylized, while prose superficially imparts a feeling of "naturalness".
And given Koreshoff's quote, which is she calling Prose and which Poetry?
Deb's quote suggests that Penjing is more poetry than prose.

The reason I ask is that often times people refer to Bonsai as a more refined image than Penjing.  I don't read that quote meaning what you're saying it does.
 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2011, 06:50 AM »
I think maybe you are reading stylized in a different meaning than intended in this quote. I take it as meaning penjing artists style their trees on a feeling of the material more than refining it to look like a natural tree. But they do see natural effects in the material such as large crossing roots and style the tree to reflect and enhance this. There is little worry that it is not reminiscent of a miniaturized tree. Hence it is more stylized and less natural than the refined Japanese way that miniaturises a tree in detail like a scale model. Making it look like a natural miniature tree.

Yet if you study the different styles of Penjing you start to see that they do infant look like natural trees from the area they come from just in a more stylized (poetic) way. Instead of Bonsai being  Prose (factual discourse)

 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2011, 11:16 AM »
This is the SUZHOU School of penjing in a still shot of Lindsay Farr's WOB


 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2011, 11:22 AM »
ok one pic at a time this is an english elm that i think will suit this style
 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2011, 11:35 AM »
closer of the trunk
 

MatsuBonsai

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2011, 09:41 AM »
Ok, what makes this one the SUZHOU School of penjing?  And, what is the SUZHOU School of penjing?
 

John Kirby

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2011, 12:30 PM »
John,
I had a post written, but thought it was a little snarky (ok, a lot snarky), so I deleted it. I love how these discussions pop up from time to time,  and my question is always the same: so?.

I personally like the really highly stylized trees: the stumpy thick trunked pines and maples, the deadwood Junipers, etc. I like bonsai that give an impression of something natural, kind of like the Hokusai painting below does for waves, fishermen and Mt Fuji. 

John
 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2011, 08:48 PM »
I wish you had left your "snaky" message John I have a feeling I would have enjoyed it.

I appreciate you like the highly stylized trees. To a very large degree so do I but a part of me likes all bonsai as long as they are good.

Some time ago I was getting advice on working over a pre-bonsai hornbeam over a chat forum. I was encouraged to cut down the top of the trunk.
Shortly after another member showed us a picture of a very nice tree and we oohed and aahed over it. But then I noticed something. It had a trunk very similar to mine that they wanted me to chop.
I said hang on that trunk looks the same as mine so why do I need to chop mine.
They said yes but this one is penjing.
I said well why can't mine be penjing?
I got no reply  ???

This little exchange sat back in my thoughts for some time.

 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2011, 09:23 PM »
I was taught through the internet (I am a long way from any club) the value of a great nebari.
I discovered one guy about 1/2 hour drive away that had been doing bonsai and I chased him down and made him my friend.
He is an accomplished artist in many mediums with great schooling but was self taught in bonsai. The stark difference in the way we went about things was my need to have great nebari on my trees.
When interested in water and land forests I purchased a book called "Penjing World of Wonderment" by Qingquan Zhao. It had an Elm that I found very appealing but it had large crossing roots. This perplexed me and I went back and forth on wether I liked the tree and it challenged my belief that a perfect root spread is always better.
I started to consider what the tree would look like with the roots exchanged for a root spread that you would see on a fully mature tree in nature as we normally aim for.

This confused me even more as in my mind the tree lost much of it's great character that had appealed to me.
Hmmm!
 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2011, 09:40 PM »
Curious on this issue I found that there was very little information on the different schools of Penjing. I found a website with some explanations of the school of penjing
http://www.phoenixbonsai.com/BigPicture/ChineseSchools.html
But it was not cross referenced with any images and picturing trees from description is not really going to work.
I also found that many used very old pictures when illustrating penjing. I think this results in poor examples for today's standards.

I do like this one
 

bretts

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Re: Define the Penjing Styles
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2011, 09:54 PM »
Ok, what makes this one the SUZHOU School of penjing?  And, what is the SUZHOU School of penjing?

As information and illustrated examples are very hard to come across I have gone from very small snippets of information.
Calling this SUZHOU School of penjing comes from what Lindsay's states in his video that this tree comes from and one other description I can't remember where from that describes them as large trunked trees with hollows and cloud like foliage pads. Even looking at the website describing SUZHOU School of penjing it is very hard to pin down this description.
So I could very well be misinterpreting this but at the moment it is my best guess with the information available.

I think I mentioned that there are a couple of books on Penjing and the various schools for the western world heading to the press and I agree with Robert Steven that this is an area where information is very scarce and would be a welcome addition to our bonsai literature.