What is Penjing?

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What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Thu Apr 18, 2013 1:45 pm

A serious question.

WHAT IS PENJING?

I am seeing more and more "landscape bonsai" in local and foreign shows. Here locally I believe we are in the opening stage of this new (to us) branch or (vice versa being bonsai as the branch)of bonsai. there are about 30% of the total entries in this format in our shows.
...and the confusion on the design of penjing is expected in our "young/naive" definition of the term. When Robert Steven came here he insisted not to name most of the landscape works as penjing, because strictly speaking he said it is not a penjing ... what we and most of the bonsai community elsewhere around the world  is doing is simply bonsai landscape scene.
I thought I already new enough about penjing, but as I do more and more research I am learning that I am not yet even opening up the first page (so to speak) of the book of this bonsai art.

So what do you think PENJING is?
Is there a difference other than being Japanese of the word Saike and the Penjing being Chinese?


regards,
jun Smile


Last edited by jun on Mon Jul 01, 2013 5:31 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  JimLewis on Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:02 pm

According to Hu Yunhua, author of Penjing, the Chinese Art of Miniature Gardens (1982 China Pictorial/Timber Press) Penjing is "the Chinese art of miniature gardens created with trees or rocks."

Penjing, he says, "falls into two main categories: Miniature trees and miniature landscapes." He goes on to say that the miniature tree penjing are "most commonly known by its Japanese name, 'Bonsai'. . . . In the miniature landscapes, stones are the main components, supplemented by grass, moss, boats, bridges and pavilions." In these, trees play a supporting role.

In the west, we generally seem to consider only the latter category as penjing. This may be because the Japanese have different names for single trees -- bonsai -- and landscapes -- saikei.

I also point you to Deborah Koreshoff, who in "Bonsai: Its Art Science, History, and Philosophy," discusses the Elements of Chinese Design" (p. 225 in my copy). She also discusses Saikei, but NOT as another name for or as the Japanese version of Penjing. Saikei, according to Koreshoff, has a very short history; it came about after WW II as part of an attempt to revive the art of bonsai in Japan (p. 228) which had been decimated in the war.

The confusion over terms comes, I suspect, partly as a result of language. We westerners continue to use Japanese terms when we discuss bonsai, and try to fit our understanding of the art into literal translations of those terms: bonsai = tree in a tray; nebari = base, roots, etc. In fact, these translations are not that exact and can and have changed over the years -- not to mention that the translations could differ slightly between Japanese-to-English and Japanese-to-Spanish, or German, or Italian. Another contributor to the confusion comes from our apparently built-in urge to classify or pigeonhole everything down to the gazillionth decimal point: Shohin MUST be under 10 inches, or the trunk must (or must not) be larger than X% of the pot depth . . . etc.

Anyway, I try and would recommend that others follow suit not to get all wrapped up in terms -- particularly foreign terms. Create lovely trees (or landscapes) in pots and let it be.

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Andrew Legg on Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:48 pm

JimLewis wrote:According to Hu Yunhua, author of Penjing, the Chinese Art of Miniature Gardens (1982 China Pictorial/Timber Press) Penjing is "the Chinese art of miniature gardens created with trees or rocks."

Penjing, he says, "falls into two main categories: Miniature trees and miniature landscapes." He goes on to say that the miniature tree penjing are "most commonly known by its Japanese name, 'Bonsai'. . . . In the miniature landscapes, stones are the main components, supplemented by grass, moss, boats, bridges and pavilions." In these, trees play a supporting role.

In the west, we generally seem to consider only the latter category as penjing. This may be because the Japanese have different names for single trees -- bonsai -- and landscapes -- saikei.

I also point you to Deborah Koreshoff, who in "Bonsai: Its Art Science, History, and Philosophy," discusses the Elements of Chinese Design" (p. 225 in my copy). She also discusses Saikei, but NOT as another name for or as the Japanese version of Penjing. Saikei, according to Koreshoff, has a very short history; it came about after WW II as part of an attempt to revive the art of bonsai in Japan (p. 228) which had been decimated in the war.

The confusion over terms comes, I suspect, partly as a result of language. We westerners continue to use Japanese terms when we discuss bonsai, and try to fit our understanding of the art into literal translations of those terms: bonsai = tree in a tray; nebari = base, roots, etc. In fact, these translations are not that exact and can and have changed over the years -- not to mention that the translations could differ slightly between Japanese-to-English and Japanese-to-Spanish, or German, or Italian. Another contributor to the confusion comes from our apparently built-in urge to classify or pigeonhole everything down to the gazillionth decimal point: Shohin MUST be under 10 inches, or the trunk must (or must not) be larger than X% of the pot depth . . . etc.

Anyway, I try and would recommend that others follow suit not to get all wrapped up in terms -- particularly foreign terms. Create lovely trees (or landscapes) in pots and let it be.

Terms shmerms Jim. I agree!!!

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Todd Ellis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:55 am

Hi Jun,
I have one of Hu Yunhua's books and would follow his lead on this question. I imagine that this question will have many people, debating various points about Penjing. Most of us groan when a "thread" goes on and on about "what is a bonsai...." You shared what Robert said a Penjing "is not"; what does he say a Penjing is?
Great question!

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Apr 21, 2013 11:39 am

Jun,

I have it as divisions, such as Tree Penjing, and the different shapes of trees, or water penjing, land penjing and so on.
I chose to just use lingnan, and observe the idea of the trees in the Ink paintings. We, on this side do not have the drama or oddity of limestone based features or the types of trees [ shapes ] that grow over there in China.

Perhaps, I should call mine Health penjing or Typical shape penjing, but then I also add in what I think looks good, so it really isn't - typical - anything.

Not drawn to the whole landscape [ water or other ], enjoy looking at, but it's not for me to do or grow.

If you use the idea of the Ink Calligraphy as versus what the Japanese do, yes, there is a difference, but you still have to refine, and in the end, run the risk of Bush Penjing - chuckle.
Let's see where this all goes.
Stay well. L.L.B,
Khaimraj

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:13 pm

Khaimraj, then this is "desert penjing?"



I tend to think of it simply as a landscape.

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Apr 21, 2013 2:51 pm

Too healthy,

looks more like - beach penjing.
Believeable landscape though.
Later. and thanks.
Khaimraj

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  JimLewis on Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:28 pm

No problem with your opinion as an opinion, but are you saying that desert environments are UNhealthy?

Stuck as I am in the warm, pollen filled, and very humid warm temperate zone, I can't think of a place I'd rather be right now than a nice, clean, dry and sunny desert where I spent so many of my younger years.




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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:56 pm

Jim ,

Chuckle, point taken, I should have said - feels more like a seaside or reminds me of our Moruga or Morne Diablo seascape.
Later.
Khaimraj

* Just in case you missed my compliment.

When you draw as a student at an Atelier / Studio, the image is often more akin to a photo. It looks real.

The greater compliment is when the imagined painted image looks --- believeable !!

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:16 pm

Thanks for the ideas people!

Some of the photos which I took, they are not in the strict sense "penjing" but merely landscape scene (compare to old prints posted below)















One of my attempts to do "penjing"...
Is it a landscape or a penjing?




For Khaimraj,
An ancient print (more than 800 year old), of Chinese landscape ("penjing" maybe) in Shanghai Museum. There are dozens of 500 yo to a thousand year old plus original prints like these exhibited there. very interesting place for you to visit.


(please note guys how the trees were depicted in the old prints, and compare it to Chinese "lingnan" bonsai approach, the similarity is presented very well. see, how similar the trunk movements are to the "mallsai" Chinese elms, maybe they were intended to be formed like this Suspect )



Another landscape scene



regards,
jun Smile

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Apr 27, 2013 2:14 pm

Hey L.L.B.,

here is what I am familiar with -

[1] https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-GRoez1EqQpo/TWwCpd94W3I/AAAAAAAAApo/bFPPfns_GN8/s1600/Images+of+trees+for+Chinese+landscape+painting+from+a+traditional+instructional+book.PNG

[2] http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-dFeZZdcyxuc/TVfhPZZ1hEI/AAAAAAAAAnA/iI3lsnco9Ig/s1600/The+Thatched+Hut+of+Dreaming+of+an+Immortal+by+Tang+Yin.jpg

[3] http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Ma_Wan-Poetic_Twilight_Clouds.jpg


[4] http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-wo4u6E-xRUU/T1boPhy-lJI/AAAAAAAABIY/DMcWu-8naQA/s1600/Trees+from+the+Mustard+seed+Garden+manual+of+painting+chinese+ink+painting+techniqes+how+to+paint+trees.jpg

Enjoy.
Khaimraj

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:42 pm

Thanks LLB.

regards,
jun Smile

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Mon Jul 01, 2013 12:30 am

Following on from JL's question on another thread http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t13734-all-penjing-show I dug out this one & am still none the wiser as to what a "Penjing" is...

Jun, since you have organised a show for "penjing" & also posted a thread about tanuki not being permissible could you please explain what makes a penjing not a bonsai.... & vice versa, what makes a bonsai not a penjing... personally I have always used the terms interchangably tho can recognise many subtle differences but more commonalities....

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Mon Jul 01, 2013 5:09 am

MattA wrote:Following on from JL's question on another thread http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t13734-all-penjing-show I dug out this one & am still none the wiser as to what a "Penjing" is...

Jun, since you have organised a show for "penjing" & also posted a thread about tanuki not being permissible could you please explain what makes a penjing not a bonsai.... & vice versa, what makes a bonsai not a penjing... personally I have always used the terms interchangably tho can recognise many subtle differences but more commonalities....

Hi Matt,
I think you are reading me incorrectly. I didn't say anything of bonsai not being a penjing. In China even before "bonsai" was brought to Japan in the Song Dynasty (1127-12790), The idea of "bonsai" was already being practiced it is called "penzai". but it is only classified as one of the design or type of penjing.

here is the clear difference that you can use as a guide so that you won't mix up the two, Stick with the difinition.

Bonsai- tree in a pot
Chinese Penjing- tray/pot scenery

I already answered Jim in his inquiry about penjing in the announcement forum, here is a more in-depth definition

"Bonsai" or "penzai" is only part of the tree main categories of Penjing, it is specifically called as "Shumu penjing" literally means a "tree penjing".

Visually one can distinguished the Japanese style bonsai against the 'Shumu penjing".

Penjing in general got a more like Chinese "ink painting" appeal even the individual tree or the other categories are expressing this "emotion". the penjing composition represents a more poetic image.  

regards,
jun:)

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  marcus watts on Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:27 am

hi everyone,

i think broad categories will always be needed as the single tree penjing is very hard to separate from rock planted bonsai - bonsai planted on and in rocks here are commonly juniper, trident maple & sometimes pine but they tend to just be classed as rock plantings. if they were presented in a suiban with some sand many though would look like Juns examples.

my view would be to always keep the entry conditions uncluttered from unnecessary definitions and rules. This lets the tree owners choose if their material is suitable to put forward for selection and will always mean there is plenty of material to select from. As long as the judges have a clear idea on the day of the key points they need to look for to end up with the best trees winning all will be fine. - the best answer for this thread would be a judge sharing their thoughts for this event

As soon as a list of entry rules are defined or published there will always be a minority of individuals making claims that certain trees don't fit them etc etc, and bonsai is a free form hobby - I know many people who would not put their trees forward if too many rigid entry rules existed.

to end with a picture this was a demonstration piece I made 2 weeks ago at the Gardeners World Live event in the UK. I think of it as a bonsai rock planting but i guess it could fall into a penjing class


cheers Marcus

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:20 am

Hi Marcus,

It is not on the rules side but on the styling side. There is a clear difference between Chinese penjing style and japanese bonsai style that most westerners are more accustomed to.

In my previous post where I showed trees in ink paintings, that is the closest description of penjing style. people can search for Chinese in painting of trees or scenery that is what basically penjing looks like. and historically in fact they exists hand in hand as model for each art form.
I believe in your example it has more Japanese touch of saikei rather than Chinese penjing.

regards,
jun:)

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Mon Jul 01, 2013 11:48 am

Marcus,

the design in your work feels Japanese. Chinese work depends more on empty space and single leaves representing masses, as Jun wrote, more akin to Chinese Calligraphy, as the Ling Nan work goes.
The northern efforts as the books put it, is closer to what the Japanese do.

I noted with your Zelkova effort, that the many branchlets made the tree feel more like a bush, than a tree. However this is what is admired with a Zelkova. If you apply this philosophy to any other tree, it feels odd.
Working with the Celtis, I find the less is more gives a better tree like effect.
As usual, opinions and philosophies, no iron rules.

Note also the Chinese figured out that the Ficus quickly loses the delicate branching and so they shifted the design to the roots and some trunk. That type of design really does not exist with our local ficus, so the Chinese efforts can appear quite odd to our island eyes.

Additionally, we have no Chinese like trees on bare mountains, but the clip and grow does a better job, than wiring. As usual opinions and philosophies.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:51 pm

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:Marcus,

the design in your work feels Japanese. Chinese work depends more on empty space and single leaves representing masses, as Jun wrote, more akin to Chinese Calligraphy, as the Ling Nan work goes.
The northern efforts as the books put it, is closer to what the Japanese do.

I noted with your Zelkova effort, that the many branchlets made the tree feel more like a bush, than a tree. However this is what is admired with a Zelkova. If you apply this philosophy to any other tree, it feels odd.
Working with the Celtis, I find the less is more gives a better tree like effect.
As usual, opinions and philosophies, no iron rules.

Note also the Chinese figured out that the Ficus quickly loses the delicate branching and so they shifted the design to the roots and some trunk. That type of design really does not exist with our local ficus, so the Chinese efforts can appear quite odd to our island eyes.

Additionally, we have no Chinese like trees on bare mountains, but the clip and grow does a better job, than wiring. As usual opinions and philosophies.
Later.
Khaimraj


Yup LLB!

Space or emptiness is one of the very important features of penjing, not just penjing but almost all Chinese art form,from painting, dance, music, poem, calligraphy etc.. in fact Emptiness is as equal as the Substance.
In penjing, tree penjing included there is a balance between emptiness or void and substance, example of substance in tree penjing are the trunks while the sparse foliage or the negative spaces between branches are example of emptiness or void. In landscape and water penjing or Mountain and water penjing emptiness can be represented by the "water" elements, or even the imaginary sky, spaces between trees or spaces between mountains.while the essence are usually represented by the mountains and trees or the grouping of trees. Without the harmony of the two elements (void and essence), strictly speaking they are not penjing.

...Slowly we are dwelling into the "description" of penjing.

regards,
jun:)

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  JimLewis on Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:55 pm

the design in your work feels Japanese. Chinese work depends more on empty space and single leaves representing masses, as Jun wrote, more akin to Chinese Calligraphy, as the Ling Nan work goes.

I tend to agree here. But rather than "empty space" I might say "simplicity." Marcus' composition, while lovely, is too complex for classical penjing.

I do have to agree with him (despite what I wrote in the other thread) that creating precise rules for entry may be counterproductive. Like penjing itself, perhaps they should be simple and open to interpretation.

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Tue Jul 02, 2013 2:41 am

Hi Jun,
An attempt with my poor words to understand the differences as you see them. As I said in my original post, I use the terms interchangably when discussing my trees or those in other collections depending on the feeling I get when viewing them. My own understanding of the words bonsai & penjing are that both exist as a coverall for the various 'branches' of each art, the differences being cultural & philosophical between both forms & the individual schools within each.

Using 2 examples of IBC members work that I admire, in penjing the Lingnan school, in bonsai terms could be equated with the naturalist school, such as practiced by Walter Pall. Much of what attracts me to tree penjing is the myriad other schools & their different styling approach as shown in Law's work.

My own work is determined by the material in front of me, this sketch, the future for an old tree I was recently given. Your thoughts?



Matt

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  marcus watts on Tue Jul 02, 2013 7:23 am

excellent replies guys thanks.

I totally agree that my demo piece is japanese inspired as that is my personal taste and I gain most enjoyment from working this way - It seems from the replies that the component parts used can be exactly the same ie we could have the same rock, same tray, same plant material and depending upon how we decide to prune and place the trees will dictate whether a penjing or saikei is the final result. is it sparse and minimal = penjing, full and lush = saikei, but covered in toy animals = Question Question Laughing 

i believe lots could possibly be learnt from an exhibition that allowed both styles to be included as visual comparison of the two disciplines would be both informative and a great learning experience.

Kaimraj - the Zelkova is a rather unique bonsai in that few trees really work well following strict styling guidelines but broom (and formal upright) visually work best if they conform. It is a tree to maintain and improve in summer and then appreciate in winter so the summer appearance (in leaf) is just incidental. This tree gives true appreciation of the 4 seasons - new spring growth, summer canopy, autumn colour then the beautiful winter image. yes in leaf it looks like a ball of foliage but out of leaf if becomes a full sized tree - it is just part of refining deciduous bonsai for winter appreciation but i dont know if tropical bonsai growers get the seasonal changes that we do so maybe you don't have to plan for a winter image?

cheers Marcus


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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Tue Jul 02, 2013 10:15 am

Marcus,
with regards to the show featuring penjing and "regular bonsai", we've been doing it for years now and we noticed that there's a sudden increase of penjing in exhibitions reaching 30% to 40% of the total entries. So we decided to create an all penjing show, we are expecting around hundred entries, from around 10 clubs coming from all over the country.
The purpose of the show is for us to learn more about penjing. this will also be our gauge on what level we are in and where we can improve not as individual but more on national scope.



regards,
jun:) 

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Jul 02, 2013 11:38 am

Jim,

you are absolutely correct. Simplicity. I stepped out of the realm of Fine Art in my response, we use the word,negative space, and apply the idea in terms of decoration, or pattern. I didn't want to confuse the reader with our somewhat specialised use of the term,negative space.

In simplicity, or negative space, the eye delights in the shape of the space and what is exposed in the background as it works with the foreground, in the case of Bonsai/Penjing, leaves and background.

Marcus,

with you all the way. I highly admire the Zelkova. Don't worry on our side, we have many trees that go leafless, for 4 or so months, during the Dry Season. It was the Zelkova and Elm, that inspired me to work with the Fustic, a noble tree that is twiggy and leafless for x months.
Don't be surprised if my cousin is willing, I send in an order around February for a small zelkova. I hope you can receive paypal.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
Khaimraj

* It is a little hard explaining to Northerners that we have deciduous trees, and not everything is evergreen. Teak plantations in the hills, look like winter in the U.K.

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  JimLewis on Tue Jul 02, 2013 12:35 pm

Perhaps the closest the Japanese artists come to the feel of penjing is in the literati style trees -- especially the very slender ones, which are spare and simple. They are, after all, patterned after the Chinese literati painters.

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Re: What is Penjing?

Post  Guest on Tue Jul 02, 2013 1:26 pm

Yes Jim,

That is the perfect example of Chinese tree penjing.



regards,
jun:) 

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Re: What is Penjing?

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