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artofbonsai.org • View topic - A Brief Exploration of the Literati Style
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 Post subject: A Brief Exploration of the Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2007 6:35 pm 
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This thread is for the discussion of the article "A Brief Exploration of the Literati Style" by Will Heath.
http://artofbonsai.org/feature_articles/literati.php


Last edited by Will Heath on Fri Jun 22, 2007 11:58 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 3:19 pm 
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Thanks, Will for the article. I think that the literati style is under-used in the bonsai circles.

Regarding John Naka's statement about creating literati trees from material that is no good for anything else, I agree with you: although John is the best teacher that one can have, this particular statement is not a good way to look at creating literati bonsai.

Although the statement is true, and we can indeed create literati bonsai from material that is useless for other styles (if, of course we are lucky and the material happens to have good literati potential), it implies that we should create literati bonsai only as a last resort.

I think this is wrong, and I also think that John did not mean it in this particular context. Creating literati is a personal choice, and should not be on the bottom of one's list of possibilities.

I, personally look at a material the other way around:
Since god literati bonsai is so rare (it's the rarest among all bonsai), and one needs to be truly lucky to find material suitable for outstanding literati bonsai, my first choice is to look for literati in every raw material, and if that's not possible, then I go with some other style, as a second choice.

This is, of course, a personal decision, but literati should definitely not be reserved just for material unsuitable for other styles. It is the most expressive of all, and thus has a deep impact on the viewer. It is also free from any restriction, and so it can be a great channel for a creative mind.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:30 pm 
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Here is a question that I've been pondering lately:
I have a literati redwood that I am currently working on. The tree is slender and full of grace. I think it would make a great literati, it is about a year away from showing a decent image.

The thing that made me wonder whether or not it is indeed a good material, was one of Robert Steven's statement, saying that a good literati is one that has a dramatic trunk movement.

Well, my tree doesn't have a dramatic trunk movement, in other word, drama is NOT what this tree is about. Rather, it has grace.

I recentlyt read the Proceedings of the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones, one of the papers is written by a Japanese authority on bonsai history (sorry, I don't have the name as I am writing this). When talking about the literati style and Zen art, he says that grace is what literati style is about.

Grace and drama are vastly different.
I don't disagree with Robert's statement that a dramatic trunk movement makes great literati. But may be we don't make enough effort to express grace.

Incidently, the literati tree by Mr. Zhao shown in this article, has grace written all over. No drama. And it doesn't show a great struggle for existence either. Even the signs of great age are limited. Rather, it shows a tree showing a lot of grace in spite of living under meager conditions.
So, which one is the essence of literati: Grace or Struggle/Drama? I'd say that the former is essential, the latter is optional.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 2:40 pm 
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Here is another expample of what I am talking about:
http://sidiao.myweb.hinet.net/2007htm/p24.htm
No drama or struggle, no great age.
Simple and graceful literati landscape. There is something very charming about it.


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 Post subject: bunjin
PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 3:33 pm 
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Attila, I believe that grace should be the primary characteristic of bunjin bonsai.
Early in my bonsai life, I began to question what was being taught concerning the bunjin style. I began to explore the art of literati, and my eyes were opened. The painters in literati style will teach you far more about the art than any bonsai book.
I'm posting an image from the book, JAPANESE PAINTING IN THE LITERATI STYLE by Yonezawa and Yoshizawa. The book, one of a series, is long out of print and out of copyright, so I have no problem posting.
This book, and others in the series is available from some old book sellers. Check the link.

Back to the image; It's by a Chinese artist, Wang Fu, from about 1410.
Excellent representation of literati style trees.
Mike


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 3:53 pm 
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Hi Mike,
Thanks for the link and the illustration!


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:36 am 
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Will Heath's short exposé, the responses in the thread and my observation so far, prompt me to realise that although some can after many years of training and practice become a bonsai master, not all bonsai masters can be a bunjin/literatti.

Creating a bonsai, in my opinion, is different from creating a bunjin-gi (a bunjin tree). Furthermore, as the process of sculpting a bunjin-gi is such a personal exploration, how can one expect to achieve a bunjin-gi that can withstand the vicious tongues of art-critics?

Do you not agree that a good gardener can eventually be a good bonsai artists, and maybe one day, a bonsai master; but it would make far more sense for a bunjin to express his/her ideas by creating a bunjin-gi?

What is a bunjin? Well as explained above, he should be at least philosophical in his ideas. How many of us practising bonsai can proudly say that we think outside the box? I do not think that one can wake up one morning and say to oneself, hey I have a tree in my garden with thin trunk, lets turn it into a bunjin-gi. That is a garderner's reflex.

Then again, this is such a romanticized perspective of the subject that re-reading my thoughts made me cringe with embarrassments :D

Grosso modo, a bunjin-gi is the personification of the bunjin. As with many great artists and thinkers of our time, you can't train to become one, you are either born with "it" or you are not.


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Exploration of the Literati Style
PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2009 2:31 pm 
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Thanks for all the great replies, very thought provoking!

For those interested, Robert Steven has an excellent article on Literati that can be read , it is certainly an informative piece.


Will


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 Post subject: Re: A Brief Exploration of the Literati Style
PostPosted: Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:20 pm 
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Speaking of bunjin...

I came accross a historic account of the movement and style rendered brilliantly in Conrad Totman's . The particular chapter is very short and makes perfect sense independently.

Prescriptions aside, it is quite intuitive to see a darkly humorous take on the predictable trials and tribulations of independent scholarship - anytime, anywhere - in the particular form of tree styling. The most flattering caricature, come to think of it!


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