The Chinese connection
Evolution of penjing in China (popularly referred to as bonsai in India) dates back to the 16th Century when the first bonsai plants were dug up from the hilly terrain where these plants had become naturally dwarfed and twisted into extraordinary shapes by elements of Nature and space restrictions. People who came across these beautiful, bonsai plants, dug them out and planted them in pots at home for all to admire.
Over the centuries, specialist nurseries have started ‘training’ the plants giving artistic shapes so that the plant looks like a natural tree in miniature. Intricate wiring techniques are employed on an ordinary garden plant to give it a unique personality, be it formal upright style, cascading style, semi-cascading style or root over rock style etc. Advanced carving techniques, jin and shari, using high-powered bonsai tools, are also carried out on certain species of plants to give them a much mature and aged appearance.
Like a painter, working on a painting, using an array of colours and different brush strokes, a bonsai master too, uses his skills on different types, different sizes of plants, to create his very own unique tree or miniature landscape.
In recent years, this art form is gaining popularity in India as well. Recently, a group from Avadh Bonsai Association, Lucknow travelled to China to attend the BCI-2006 International Penjing, & Shangshi Convention. Attending the week long convention at the Chencun Flower World, Foshan City, provided them the wonderful opportunity to learn more about the various aspects of this art form, from world renowned Bonsai masters like Masahiko Kimura from Japan, Lindsay Bebb from Australia, Qingquan Zhao, Yun hua Hu and Chun-gang Liu from China, Qin-fei Zhu, Singapore, Robert Steven, Indonesia and also meet like-minded enthusiast from different countries, across the world.
The Association has organised two grand bonsai exhibitions in the city. Its founder president Santosh Arora and vice-president Benu Kalsi also attended the World Bonsai Convention in Washington, DC last year.
Today, penjing or bonsai is a work of art, resulting from many years of patient care and constant attention by its owner. It combines the beauties of nature, art and artistic conception of plants by human beings to create splendid, lovingly crafted masterpieces, across the world.