The 5th Zhongguo Fen Penjing Exhibition is being held this weekend on October 19-21, 2019 in Nanjing, China, a short 4 HOUR bus trip from the Shanghai Airport, after traveling over 18 hours from home.
The exhibition is huge and I did not get an opportunity to study the layout and trees, yet, that’s for tomorrow’s activity. I was told there are over 300 shohin bonsai compositions, each with at least 5-7 individual trees. Remember this is China, not Japan, and often more is better.
Before starting the Opening Ceremony several collage photos from the organization’s past exhibitions were projected on a huge LED screen. I was surprised to see they captured two photos of me, in my foot boot and with my scooter from 2013! NO scooter for me this year, but I do have TWO foot boots for my broken feet…. They did not stop me, only slowed me down a bit.
Today was dedicated to 18 demonstrations with artists from China, Japan, Germany, Argentina, Malyasia, Puerto Rico and me from the United States. There were five or six demos on the stage at each time. The helpers, called the Crew, were quite helpful, especially when moving the demo trees, and providing tools, sissy wire, wooden blocks and water. The demo tree next to me took five strong young men to move.
The demos were in a large scorching hot greenhouse, even though it was shaded. Behind the stage was a LED screen projecting huge images of the artists working away. Very distracting, I kept thinking someone was walking behind me, and the demos and trees were difficult to photograph until they turned the LEDs off. Check out the image of me working. I’m actually on the bottom, while the huge projection of me on the top. Looks like I had two hands, which I do, but not two left hands.
Pedro did an excellent job with a collected Japanese black pine, especially since he is not familiar with this species. He asked for any tips and I told him we generally defoliate pines before wiring. Fortunately for the tree, Pedro has good sense and styled a beautiful smaller bonsai with dead wood highlights.
I selected an ancient collected Japanese red pine with aged bark to work on, but was quickly corrected that it was a “Chinese red pine.” Pinus densiflora, also called Japanese or Korean red pine, has a natural distribution in Japan, China, Korea and southern Russia.
I was extremely fortunate to get Chen Yan, a lovely and skilled young Chinese lady for an assistant. She has been studying bonsai at the Seiko-en Bonsai Garden in Omiya Bonsai Village, Japan for three years with Tomio Yamada. Mr. Yamada is one of my favorite Japanese bonsai artists with a beautiful garden. He excels in fine quality style bonsai, especially literati style. I have known his family since I began commuting to Japan in 1970. Next March the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum will be featuring his work in the “Contemporary Japanese Bonsai Artist Series,” following Masahiko Kimura and Hiroshi Takeyama. His father created great rock plantings, while his daughter, a fifth-generation bonsai artist has invented “saika bonsai,” a modern style featuring flowering plants, like flower arrangements.
Since my Chinese linguistic skills are non-existent, Chen and I simply communicated in Japanese, with no problems at all since she must be fluent in Japanese to study with Mr. Yamada. She really did a super job wiring, thinning and helping me with several guy wires. After removing the old dead needles, we did a light trimming then wired the main branches to establish the basic shape. Then we began to do the fine wiring as I figured out where to position the guy wires. She has strong hands which is a requirement for fastening guy wires and knew exactly how to tie the ends. Yes, my first guy wire snapped because I was provided with sissy wire rather than the proper annealed copper. If the wire were copper rather than aluminum, it would not have broken. I did use the right gauge, just not the correct material. By the way, her hands were just as dirty as mine. I was very pleased with the final styling of the JAPANESE red pine bonsai.
Tomorrow I plan to visit the shohin bonsai exhibition and will report what I discover. This is the entrance to that display house, just to tease you.