WORLD BONSAI FRIENDSHIP FEDERATION CONVENTION – PART 1

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The 7th World Bonsai Friendship Federation Convention has been combined with the 12th Asia Pacific Bonsai And Suiseki Convention this year in Jin Tan, China and will take place on September 24-28, 2013. I’m part of a six man team from the United States and am joined by fellow bonsai artists and friends, Bjorn Bjorholm, Randy Clark, Brussel Martin and Suthin Sukosolvisit.

Yesterday I arrived in China after a long 15 hour direct flight from Newark, originating in Rochester. The convention committee met us and led us to an air conditioned bus where we had to wait for THREE hours for other foreigners to arrive. Then they told us the bus trip would be another FOUR hours to the hotel. That’s like me flying into Rochester, NY and driving to Pittsburgh, PA for a hotel!

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Today we are boarding buses to the convention venue, which is another hour and a half dive. Boy, China is a huge country! We had a police escort to the venue and passed the unfinished hotel were everyone was to stay in the garden. We are distributed in four hotels and using 12 buses to go back and forth to the garden. The demonstrations are at the Baosheng Bonsai Museum, a brand new, yet unfinished beautiful park which is over 16 acres in size. It personally belongs to Mr. Changbo Xin, the WBFF China Chairman and great benefactor of bonsai. He was building a huge hotel for us, but did not complete it in time. In fact, the entire museum complex is not finished yet and they only “put it together” for our visit. It will close in a few days until it is complete. I was told nothing was there four years ago.

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There are several museums and buildings, but I did not have time, nor the energy on my scooter, to see everything, but will try again tomorrow before my demo. There are LOTS of stairs which are easier for me to go up, rather than go down. It seems as though the museum park is comprised of an entire mountain top. Lots of stairs, BUT everyone in the committee is helping me get around and brining bringing “electric cars” to move me. Even on the bus our group and driver are quite helpful. I don’t think China has heard of handicap requirements as we have in the United States.

There are over 400 registered guests and many more were at the Opening Ceremony, which was listed to begin at 9:58 (not 10:00) but did not start until after 10:15 with dragon dancers and loud music. The fireworks were on video screens. During the presentations a helicopter drone flew over the people taking photos, kind of neat. My brother has one, but this model is quite a bit larger and I’m sure will take good photos.

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Museum visits concluded the morning activities and they were quite crowded. Fantastic trees! Most of them belong to Mr. Xin, but he invited other artists to display their best bonsai, which were judged, in one of the buildings. I was told I missed an important building full of Japanese bonsai, but I can see Japanese bonsai next month during my Japan tour. I want to see the Chinese penjing to get a better understanding and appreciation of the origin of what we call bonsai. I’ll still try to visit the building tomorrow. The walls were painted white which was good for photography. The size of many specimens is staggering! I guess large is best in China. I did not expect to see the fine refinement of most of the bonsai. Surely, many of the trees are more than four man trees.

We returned back to the entrance where a large restaurant was prepared for buffet lunch. Then the 47 speakers met to select their demonstration trees. Each of us was asked which species they wanted to work on. Nearly everyone said juniper or pine, but I said hackberry. There was one large hackberry in the selection area, and I was first to select, but they gave it to Budi from Indonesia, but was offered a large size Chinese sweet plum with two trunks. I can fix it. Others looked at their trees and many switched. Bjorn was given a large Hinoki with a beautiful trunk, but quite poor roots and not happy, but was allowed to select a good Japanese red pine. Then, sitting back I saw another artist grab the tree because he liked it. Isao Omachi’s tree was huge! He said it was more like a “three day tree” rather than the three hours we are allocated to work. By the time we finished this process the three Chinese demonstrations were just about finished, but saw the last part of Brook Zhao’s huge (5 man) land and water penjing.

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All the demonstrators were sent e-mail messages to attend a meeting and they would provide each with a scissor cart (moves up and down), “metal” wires but were to bring our own tools. Since I did not understand what “metal” wire was, and prefer not to use sissy wire, brought a complete selection of annealed copper wire from No. 6 to No. 20. I don’t think I’ll need the heavy wire, so Suthin or one of the five others sfrom the United States can use it, if they want.

Tomorrow 22 (yes, twenty-two) demonstrations will take place at the same time in the same courtyard. Each artist has a pop up tent to work in, just in case it rains. Then, after lunch another 22 demonstrations will take place. I’m curious to see how this works out, each of us has an assigned tent. We just returned back to our hotel from the Welcoming Banquet, which FINISHED at 8:30 pm. Now, I’ve been to a lot of banquets, in fact 10 conventions this year alone, and that time is closer to the beginning rather the end. The room could not fit everyone, so an extra room was opened in the back (cheap seats or kid’s tables?). Even the Japanese were in the back room and we could not (luckily?) watch all the speeches, but had a great delicious meal and saw loads of friends from all around the globe. Bonsai fellowship is quite important in the art as there is more to bonsai than just shaping trees. To be continued……

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