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Posted at: Mar 18, 2017, 12:45 AM; last updated: Mar 18, 2017, 12:45 AM (IST)

Do you have a penchant for Penjing?

Tending tips

  • Bonsai and other trees in the penjing need to be taken care of.
  • Water the plants regularly to ensure their good health.
  • Bonsai should be properly pruned periodically during growing season to maintain its shape.
  • Bonsai should be fertilised periodically during growing season and root pruning be carried out once in3 years preferablyduring spring.
Maj Gen C S Bewli

Penjing has made a place for itself in India as several enthusiasts fascinated by miniature masterpieces are trying their hands at creating them. The word Penjing is made up of two Chinese words: pen meaning pot and jing paraphrased as a landscape or scenery. It is the traditional Chinese art of creating landscape in a tray to exhibit different scenes of nature in a miniature format. The art form is vibrant where natural materials such as rocks, stones and water are artistically amalgamated to give a 3-dimensional pleasing appearance. To add life and transform the arrangement into a living miniature masterwork, bonsai or other artistically created trees are planted. However, care should be taken to ensure that each and every element in the overall arrangement is inclusive and in harmony.

Both, bonsai and penjing are closely related art forms and are considered pinnacles of gardening skills in the creation of miniatures.

Bonsai symbolises tree in a pot and its connoisseur focuses only on the tree and its container and follows set norms to create it. While penjing expresses a scenery in a pot or on a stone slab. It gives more freedom to the maestro to create and express landscapes that appear bold and buoyant primarily due to additional design elements encompassing figurines, trees, soils, grasses, etc.

At times it may not be possible to get a piece of rock with a suitable and aesthetic appearance to match the whole set up; in such cases, two or more pieces of rocks may be joined together with quick drying cement/glue to impart an artistic and pleasing appearance. Alternatively, to render a natural appearance, rocks may be shaped and grooves or channels created using power tools such as electric grinders and stone cutters.

The rock should:

Be glued on the tray. 

In general be hard enough so as not to break easily. cobblestone, limestone, quartzite, slate stone, etc. are available in India.

Have a hole to accommodate enough of soil mix for setting the roots of the bonsai/tree.

Penjing categories

Tree Penjing: As the name suggests, this characterises bonsai or other well-shaped trees as the cardinal elements in the creation of tree penjing. 

Landscape Penjing: As the name signifies, landscape penjing reflects a natural, miniature landscape where rock in the form of peak and in contact with water is exhibited as a dominant element in its creation. 

The landscape may have a single or multiple peaks. When designed for a single peak, its position should be off-centre, but with couple of peaks, the main peak should be taller and more dominant, but when with three peaks, the smallest should generally be placed in the centre and at the rear to give depth to the landscape.. 

Bonsai or trimmed trees may be aesthetically placed in a container to complement the appearance of the landscape.

Water and land penjing: It is the liveliest form of penjing which skilfully and effectively incorporates elements from both the above mentioned categories. Further, selective and optional display of miniatures like figurines, pagodas, houses, bridges, boats, animals, birds, etc. add an element of naivety to enhance the overall sense of panorama and proportion. 

— The writer is President of National Cactus & Succulent Society of India and President of Bonsai Culture Society.


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