When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Garykk on Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:46 pm

Ok, I am not using the word bonsai ever again. From now on I will invite my friends to either see my green ecology art or I will go into the great outdoors to see bonsai.....I mean green ecology art, sorry.

__gary


Image removed at Gary's request

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Rob Kempinski on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:02 pm

DaveP wrote:
Rob Kempinski wrote:
mike page wrote:Just as every graphic image is not art, every tree in a "container" is not bonsai.

Mike

This is like debating which came first the chicken or the egg.

I would respectfully disagree. I'll use Japanese, if only because it's appropriate here, but the example exists in other languages as well.

Hypothetically, let's say the English word "jeans" doesn't have an equivalent Japanese morpheme (I don't think it does - but would happily be proven otherwise). In that case, they would use some form of kana to spell it phonetically, rather than assigning a new word because it does have a meaning already and there is no need for a morpheme. Inversely, the morpheme pronounced as "bonsai" has .
.
.
snip
.

When we say the word "bonsai", I believe it would be most correct to convey the meaning based on the originating morpheme - at least to the best of our efforts.

Since we know the origin (Japanese morpheme), there isn't any chicken or egg. Very Happy

Kindest~
-d

A couple of points.
Word connotations change over time. Bonsai is now a global word. While bonsai has its roots, in 1000 years it might mean genetically engineered aliens living in styrofoam on a different planet.

In fact, the Japanese characters for bonsai are actually originally Chinese characters for pern tzai (or some other dialect). Since we don't really know what these original growers intended there is indeed a historical chicken and egg.

Artful and harmony are very subjective and really can be interpreted many ways.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:08 pm

[quote="DaveP] there's a bit of a conundrum in my mental image. [/quote]

Maybe my fault, Dave. Confusion will persist because at this stage the other poster's container garden/planter/bonsai/green ecology art piece does not exist. If they post a pic once it's completed we might be able to take a different view on it. From the description, they intend to pick a few trees of species they like and put them all into the one 36" x 20" or so planter and keep them miniaturised. In the person's mind's eye he/she sees a bonsai landscape.

My point about a planter which did harmonise with the plants was merely hypothetical and did not refer to the original planned landscape.


GaryKK: Don't know about the tree, but the piece of green ecology art on the left of the pic is not bad Very Happy

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  DaveP on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:42 pm

Rob Kempinski wrote:
A couple of points.
Word connotations change over time. Bonsai is now a global word. While bonsai has its roots, in 1000 years it might mean genetically engineered aliens living in styrofoam on a different planet.

In fact, the Japanese characters for bonsai are actually originally Chinese characters for pern tzai (or some other dialect). Since we don't really know what these original growers intended there is indeed a historical chicken and egg.

Artful and harmony are very subjective and really can be interpreted many ways.

Agreed that connotations can change over time. As you rightly point out, the morpheme is largely identical between the Japanese "bonsai" and Chinese "penzai", as are the majority of the kanji graphemes, which are based on the traditional Chinese written language (as opposed to "simplified" Chinese). In both languages, the meaning is identical. In the phonetic, Japanese is "bon sai" and Chinese is "pern tzai".

I'll stick with the definition we currently have from the word source, based on the timeline from historic writing & images through current use in Eastern culture. Once the aliens land and explain that we managed to screw up yet another gift - and they should know since they gave the word to the Chinese - then I'm good with shifting connotations. Very Happy

It still boils down to a phonetically-trained language center trying to grasp an imagery-based language. I'll be the first to say that I'm phonetically trained. I can't speak a lick of Japanese or Chinese. But I can read a little (which is a rather nice part of separating the written and spoken language as logograms are - the meaning is separate from pronunciation and wholly based on grapheme context). While being able to read does not implicitly mean understanding, it's enough to understand that position and context of the graphemes makes a very large difference in meaning. We try to understand the phonetic noun "bonsai" as though it were the English noun "fastforward", when that's not how the source language (Japanese or Chinese, reader's choice) works at all. I don't see an implicit causality from a word being used globally to a shift in its meaning.

Kindest~
-d


Last edited by DaveP on Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:45 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : minor clarifications)

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Will Heath on Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:51 pm

It seems we keep getting stuck on the literal definition of the word bonsai, consider the following:

"....it even gets a little more ridiculous when we remember that bonsai is a combination of two words and like many other words, they have different meanings depending on how and where they are used.

According to the Japanese to English Dictionary on http://www.freedic.com the word bon, used alone, can also mean mediocrity, Lantern Festival, Festival of the Dead, or tray.

Sai can also mean difference, disparity, years-old, how!, what!, alas!, companion, cut, debt, loan, difference, planting, hold (a meeting), or son, my son.

Bonsai, depending on the usage besides just "bonsai" can also mean mediocrity, ordinary ability, and a Buddhist priest's wife!"
- Defining Bonsai

Although technically the word can be defined as tray planting, it has come to mean much more and words such as Mallsai (coined by Vance Wood) have been invented to differentiate between cheap knock offs, craft, and those going past craft, over into art.

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Ed Trout on Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:25 am

Gary,

Can you please attach a GPS to that tree you are standing next to ? It cannot be that far from me !!

Ed Trout

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  DaveP on Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:19 am

Will Heath wrote:It seems we keep getting stuck on the literal definition of the word bonsai, consider the following:

Actually, we seem to insist on breaking apart two graphemes to try and derive a definition. Logogram languages simply do not work this way.

Will Heath wrote:"....it even gets a little more ridiculous when we remember that bonsai is a combination of two words and like many other words, they have different meanings depending on how and where they are used.

According to the Japanese to English Dictionary on http://www.freedic.com the word bon, used alone, can also mean mediocrity, Lantern Festival, Festival of the Dead, or tray.

Sai can also mean difference, disparity, years-old, how!, what!, alas!, companion, cut, debt, loan, difference, planting, hold (a meeting), or son, my son.

This is correct. Each grapheme used to create the morpheme for "bonsai" are "free" graphemes. They can stand alone. When put together, they create a different meaning than simply the sum of the parts.

Will Heath wrote:
Bonsai, depending on the usage besides just "bonsai" can also mean mediocrity, ordinary ability, and a Buddhist priest's wife!"
- Defining Bonsai

Although technically the word can be defined as tray planting, it has come to mean much more and words such as Mallsai (coined by Vance Wood) have been invented to differentiate between cheap knock offs, craft, and those going past craft, over into art.

This is wrong. Technically the word cannot be defined as simply "tray planting" because that is not how logograms work. The definition is found in the morpheme - the combination of the two characters - because Japenese (and Chinese) languages have the written and pronounced portions of the language separate. Look at the word "inflammable", which is possibly the closest thing in a phonetic language to explaining how a logogram works.

In- \In-\ ([i^]n-). [L. in-; akin to E. un-. See Un-.]
An inseparable prefix, or particle, meaning not, non-, un-
as, inactive, incapable, inapt. In- regularly becomes il-
before l, ir- before r, and im- before a labial.
[1913 Webster]

...ooo.. an "inseparable prefix"!

flammable
adj : possible to burn

So if we insist upon breaking this word, "inflammable", apart to get it's meaning - as we seem to insist upon breaking apart the logogram for "bonsai", we have "not" + "possible to burn". Does "inflammable" mean "not possible to burn"?

Inflammable \In*flam"ma*ble\, a. [CF. F. inflammable.]
1. Capable of being easily set fire; easily enkindled;
combustible; as, inflammable oils or spirits.

Quite the opposite. Yes, the morpheme for "bonsai" contains the graphemes "bon" (tray) and "sai" (planting), but the meaning of the combined characters is considerably more. This is just how logograms work. If we insist upon breaking "bonsai" into "tray" + "planting", we might as well march towards containers labeled "inflammable" with lit matches.

...and the horse just called. He asked if I could please stop beating him as he's quite bereft of life at this point. I'll honor his request on this topic unless asked to do otherwise. Smile

Kindest~
-d

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Tony on Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:42 am

DaveP wrote:
Quite the opposite. Yes, the morpheme for "bonsai" contains the graphemes "bon" (tray) and "sai" (planting), but the meaning of the combined characters is considerably more. This is just how logograms work. If we insist upon breaking "bonsai" into "tray" + "planting", we might as well march towards containers labeled "inflammable" with lit matches.
...and the horse just called. He asked if I could please stop beating him as he's quite bereft of life at this point. I'll honor his request on this topic unless asked to do otherwise. Smile
-d

Hi Dave, you are on the button!

I really wonder why we are being so fastidious about the definition.
Note: Carolyn tells me I am neither fast or hideous

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  wabashene on Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:17 am

Hello,

My 2p's worth fwiw.

I did a little (and out of necessity dilettante) analysis of the individual elements of bon sai kanji combination with some direct input from a Japanese colleague and and some 2nd hand input from Nobuyuki Kajiwara - a bonsai sensei on the European circuit - and came to the following conclusion


(instead of "Tray planting" I decided that......................)

" the notion of a dwarf tree that is planted, cultivated, pruned and watered in its special pot (container), eventually becoming something to be treasured, seems to be a lot more satisfactory to me."

The whole article is here should anyone be interested.
http://bonsai4me.com/AdvTech/ATBonsaikanjisymbols.htm

Thks

TimR

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Garykk on Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:42 pm

Ed Trout wrote:Gary,

Can you please attach a GPS to that tree you are standing next to ? It cannot be that far from me !!

Ed Trout

Welcome aboard Ed. What if I take a "bonsai" and turn it free.... take it out of the pot and plant it back in the ground where it came from..... a pocket in the rock with its own species again.... then what is it called?

__gary

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Will Heath on Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:49 pm

Thanks Dave, that was very informative and enlightening, I appreciate it,.



Will

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  DaveP on Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:49 pm

Tony .. likewise on the wondering. scratch

Tim .. brilliant link! This visually explains it well. Thanks Very Happy

Kindest~
-d

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Tony on Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:14 pm

Garykk wrote: What if I take a "bonsai" and turn it free.... take it out of the pot and plant it back in the ground where it came from..... a pocket in the rock with its own species again.... then what is it called?

__gary

A tree Suspect

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‎"Study me as much as you like, you will never know me, for I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes, and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see." — Rumi

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:48 pm

Tony wrote:
Garykk wrote: What if I take a "bonsai" and turn it free.... take it out of the pot and plant it back in the ground where it came from..... a pocket in the rock with its own species again.... then what is it called?

__gary

A tree Suspect

Or a bush, (if it's for instance an azalea.) bounce

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Thu Jun 25, 2009 3:42 pm

Interestingly, if only in a surreal sort of way, I came home the more scenic route this afternoon owing to road works, and at the bit of the country road that is used as a fly tipping point, there was an old discarded toilet bowl. It was resplendent with a rather nice beech growing out if it which was almost perfectly and naturally styled as an informal upright. I'm thinking of entering it in the "Innovations" section in the Joy of Bonsai next year as the container and the plant actually did have some degree of harmony. All bad puns and/or possible titles for the piece of green ecology art now gratefully accepted.

But how far can we stretch the bounds of acceptability of what a container should be? This, if enacted, would be merely gimicky, but what is acceptable?


Tony wrote: Note: Carolyn tells me I am neither fast or hideous
That's funny - it's not what she told me. Especially the fast bit, but she said it came in handy because your egg timer's broken. Laughing

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Norma on Thu Jun 25, 2009 4:21 pm

Wicked wit ... Fionna !!

How about ... Beech Potty ..... ?

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  mike page on Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:28 pm

No doubt about the proper fertilizer.

Mike

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:31 pm

Norma wrote:How about ... Beech Potty ..... ?

... which no doubt would be well attended by beech bums!

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When is a Bonsai not a bonsai?

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:52 pm

All of my trees start out as "yama-storey", verses yamadori. Usually they remain in their original containers until such time as I decide I'm ready to take the next step. Many of the bonsai fori would refer to these as potensai. That works for me.

The topic as a whole seems too subjective.

If you have your favorite, award-winning, bonsai; BUT, you are in the process of repotting it...

is it not a bonsai for the 20 minutes you have it out of the pot, or is it just a bonsai receiving routing maintenance?

When getting into the galleries of the trees meeting the definition of 4-hand; 8-hand or "more-hand" trees. Even though they might be very large and planted in specially created boxes, containers or pots. I think they still meet the requirements of bonsai. HOWEVER, if it is stuck in a pot and treated like a house plant, then it's a house plant. thumbs up

forbey

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Tony on Fri Jun 26, 2009 10:01 am

fionnghal wrote: That's funny - it's not what she told me. Especially the fast bit, but she said it came in handy because your egg timer's broken. Laughing

You ARE commenting on the speed of my wiring Suspect as this IS a forum for Bonsai Matters and all things small. Razz

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‎"Study me as much as you like, you will never know me, for I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be. Put yourself behind my eyes, and see me as I see myself, for I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see." — Rumi

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Fri Jun 26, 2009 2:01 pm

[quote="Tony"]
fionnghal wrote: this IS a forum for Bonsai Matters and all things small. Razz
'You may say so; I couldn't possibly comment'
Francis Urquhart arr. Fionnghal

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Norma on Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:21 pm

Hi forbey...

Don't we all have a story about where our collected trees were found !! I've been eyeing a perfect little forest in my neighbor's roof gutter. Guttadori !? The young man has not been able to sell his home and it has been empty for two years re: American economy. The house overlooks my garden and I've been sorely tempted to be a "good" neighbor and clean up this little dam. It may be too late , however, because of our extreme dry spell.

And Fiona...

I'm bummed (american slang) that I didn't catch your UK slang. It was punalicious ! And for your beech, a Potadori and all the pomp it deserves!

Norma

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Fri Jun 26, 2009 8:28 pm

Hi Fiona, May I ask where in MN are you located? I have friends in Albert Lea.

Presently, I have a lovely Guttadori of my own growing. It's an approximately 18" Sweet Gum. I haven't decided if I want to rescue it or wring it's little bark, LOL! The MOMMY Sweet Gum, next door, makes an annual mess of the neighborhood aif it was mine it would have been firewood a long time ago.

As for Yamastori, I have a lovely Calluna vulgaris "Scottish Heather" that I was told wouldn't be appropriate for bonsai. She's proving them wrong. My latest aquisitions are two Ehretia buxifolia "Fukien Tea".

I find the fact that both the Calluna and the Ehretia are ti[ically not wired but pruned to shape. For my novice hands, they appear very forgiving. However, at this point in time, they are not in proper bonsai pots.

forbey

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  Norma on Fri Jun 26, 2009 10:26 pm

Hi forbey,

Since Fiona lives in Scotland, I assume you were asking me where I am in Minnesota. I live just North of the Twin Cities and belong to a very active bonsai club located in St. Paul.

Norma

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Re: When is a Bonsai not a Bonsai?

Post  fiona on Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:59 pm

forbey wrote:As for Yamastori, I have a lovely Calluna vulgaris "Scottish Heather" that I was told wouldn't be appropriate for bonsai. She's proving them wrong.
And from the one who lives in Scotland, I'm very impressed with your Calluna. Proving people wrong for the helluvit - it's what we Scots do best. Very Happy

I'm currently experimenting with tree heathers - Erica arborea and Erica veitchii - which are growing on in large pots of ericaceous compost and getting blasted with fertiliser. A couple of them have doubled in girth in the three or four months I've had them, and I've been doing a bit of formative pruning to get them going in the style direction I want. They're a long way away from bonsai however but as I'm aiming for Shohin I'll hopefully be able to see something more positive in a few years. Colours are gorgeous.

So Forbey, keep on with your Wee Scottish Heather lassie. What you need to say to her every so often is "Gaun yersel, hen!" Don't try to look for that on Babelfish!

Slainte (that one might be Babelfishable but to save you the time it's a Gaelic greeting equivalent to "cheers", pronounced slanj)

Fiona

BTW any pics of it?

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