Many Japanese and Chinese forms of art are closely related to Bonsai, including Suiseki (stone appreciation), Ikebana (flower arrangement), Nishikigoi (Koi fish), Japanese gardening and pottery.
In this part of the website we try to explain the basics of these related arts, select your topic of interest below in the list of articles.
日本庭園 (nihon teien)
Japanese gardens are often part of Buddhist monasteries and Shinto shrines and therefore deeply rooted in religion. The importance of nature in Shinto beliefs is resembled in garden elements such as lakes, trees and rocks; Buddhist elements include mountains, stone groupings and seas.
Bonsai trees are sometimes traditionally displayed in a Tokonoma, consisting of a Bonsai tree, a scroll and an accent plant (representing men, heaven and earth respectively). Adding a scroll, or in this case an accent plant to the composition is done to accentuate the tree on display and create a sense of harmony.
Suiseki (水) is the Japanese art of stone appreciation, which values aspects like stability, longevity and immortality. Formed through time by wind and water, stones can take several sizes and shapes, reminding us of natural objects.
Suiseki (also called viewing stones) are often placed on delicate wooden stands or trays, called daizas and dobans, respectively. The wooden stands serve to display the stones and create an image of harmony.
Ikebana (literally "giving life to flowers") is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, in which the arrangement brings nature and humanity closer together. The shapes, forms and colors of the flowers are very important; but unlike western customs, emphasis is put on the flowers’ stems and leaves. Central to Ikebana are the essences of harmony, minimalism, symbolism and meaning of the arrangement.
Bonsai literally means “planted in container”, which clearly indicates the importance and inseparability of pottery and Bonsai. Similar to paintings, the pot ‘frames’ the tree; it should complement and enhance its appearance and create a sense of harmony, but never detract attention from the tree itself.
It seems the pottery aspect to Bonsai has been undervalued by most Bonsai enthusiasts in the Western world, possibly because prices of high quality Bonsai pots are high. Also, finding a Bonsai pot that truly fits a given tree is very hard.
Nishikigoi, often called Koi fish or Japanese carp, are fish with colors and patches raised and kept for appreciation. The carp originates from China and was brought to Japan by means of gifts. Its first Japanese mention dates back to 71AD (of Koi held by the presumed legendary Emperor Keikō). It took until the 19th century before Koi mutated and got colored however, a prerequisite for contemporary Nishikigoi appreciation (originally Koi were held in irrigation basins above rice fields as a source of food).
小品盆栽 & 豆盆栽
Shohin means “a small thing”, indicating it being even smaller than Bonsai. Although no exact rules were ever formulated, a tree is considered to be Shohin when under 25 cm (10’’) tall. Experts believe that you must be able to hold the Shohin tree in one hand, indicating the exact measure of the height of the tree is not strictly important. Mame Bonsai trees are even smaller; under 10 cm (4’’) tall.