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artofbonsai.org • View topic - Defining Literati Style
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 Post subject: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 3:19 pm 
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Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines. They are found in the work of literati artists beginning in China many centuries ago. This is where anyone interested in this style should begin their study. Forget the bonsai books.

One of my favorite books, many years out of print is:
JAPANESE PAINTING IN THE LITERATI STYLE by Yoshiho Yonezawa and Chu Yoshizawa.
This book is still available online from some used book sellers. Highly recommended.

The attached image is from this book and is found on page 124, and is by Wang Fu, 15th century Chinese artist. This was the inspiration for my "controversial" literati pine.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 5:13 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 5:56 pm 
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The simple fact that we can usually tell a literati bonsai from a bonsai that is not, leads me to believe that we base our decision of on a group of criteria applicable to literati. If there was no such criteria, then we could not tell them apart from other trees, and there would be no such group as literati.

Obviously, not every criteria apply to every literati, but some criteria always does. If you put 10 literati trees next to each other, I am sure that you can find common criteria between them, that sets them apart from other type of bonsai.

The proof that literati can be defined with a set of criteria is the following:

1) Some trees can clearly be classified as literati, with a simple yes or no.

2) As soon as you start departing from these criteria, the classification becomes increasingly difficult - these are the trees that cross over between the so-called styles.

3)The last group contains trees that can clearly be defined as not literati.

Based on the above logic, there must be a set of criteria applicable to literati. It is simple mathematics, using a set of logical patterns and comparing them to each other.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Tue Nov 04, 2008 10:14 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:34 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 2:33 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 5:30 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 12:32 pm 
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Images, not words are best suited to define literati style. Study with your eyes the work of the Chinese literati painters and the Japanese artists of the Nanga period. I'm not an accomplished wordsmith as are so many on this forum. I have to rely on images to make a point, and these images are in the books, and will define classical literati if you look for it.

Some words below. I made a handout for my club members when we did a bunjin demo recently.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

LITERATI STYLE by Professor Amy Liang
From her book, THE LIVING ART OF BONSAI

"This style was the favorite of the literati in ancient China.Trees in this style grow in valleys between precipices or beside mountain streams. The trunk is slender, tall and graceful. As a result of low sunlight, the trunk has no branches on it’s lower part. Branches are sparse and short with many open spaces between them, giving the tree the appearance of fragility, elegance and unworldly grace.The literati is the easiest style to create, but is at the same time, difficult to accomplish well. The artist must possess three qualities to make the choices necessary to create a successful literati style: keen aesthetic judgment, accumulated wisdom and superb techniques. Favorable tree species are of the pine and juniper families, maple and Japanese flowering apricot (plum), Fukien Tea, and Oldham elaeagnus. Shallow round and irregular pots of austere color should be chosen for this style to display a peaceful and relaxed"
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thoughts on Bunjin Bonsai by Mike Page
A bunjin bonsai should embody the elegance of simplicity, and the simplicity of true grace. Is this attainable? Are we mortals capable? Should we even try? I believe that we should. Will we succeed? We may not know.

I truly believe that bunjin reflects the artistic philosophy of "less is more" to a degree far greater than any other style of bonsai. However, the distillation of the philosophy to a work of bonsai art may be a difficult path to travel.

As we travel this path to bonsai nirvana, the destination may be just around the next turn. Or, maybe its over the top of the next hill. But there is always another turn in the road and one more hill to climb in the unending journey.
The journey is the lesson. The lesson is the destination.
--------------------------------------------------------------------

As I said at the beginning, if you want to gain a feeling for "classical literati", you must go to the images. Words will not take you to the desired destination.

Mike

.


Last edited by Mike Page on Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 1:24 pm 
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Thanks Mike, I particularly like Amy Liang's down to earth, but very fitting description.


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 1:03 am 
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Mike,

Certainly you must agree that Amy's and your own words above failed to give us the guidelines you mentioned, "Literati bonsai most surely has guidelines."

I disagree with Amy's statement that "...the literati is the easiest style to create..." Any style is easy to create, but we are not talking about just creation, but successful creation and in that aspect, a successful Literati is the hardest to create.

Her description of the Literati style resembles attempts by many others to nail the style down, yet this style defies such attempts. Her attempt focuses on generalities only. Literati bonsai has a way of making any such attempt to define it like trying to nail jello to a wall. For example, she states, "The trunk is slender, tall and graceful. As a result of low sunlight, the trunk has no branches on it’s lower part. Branches are sparse and short with many open spaces between them, giving the tree the appearance of fragility, elegance and unworldly grace." However, the Literati bonsai below ignores her.....

steve_tolley_pentaphyla_370.jpg
steve_tolley_pentaphyla_370.jpg [ 157.75 KiB | Viewed 29746 times ]

Pinus pentaphyla by Steve Tolley


Colin,

It took me awhile to think on your words, classical vs classic, and I find myself wanting to agree that Mike's bonsai is indeed a classic example as opposed to a classical example.

While it may seem trivial at first, the difference is immense.

Will


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:48 am 
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Will,
Of course now you have opened up the question of whether or not Steve Tolley's tree is indeed a literati....

Richard,
Believe not all you read on Wikipedia. I have seen several incorrect entries, and actually changed one myself (Akadama was defied as a high-fired clay). To use the tern 'classical; to mean a fine example of high quality is incorrect.

Mike, You are absolutely right. This is one of those things that you have to see to understand. Literati is defined as much by the 'feel' and the spirit of the tree as by anything else - whicj is why I contend it isn't a classical style.

One more point before I leap on a plane and disappear for a few days: I wonder if (and I doubt that) there is a precisely equivalent term for 'classical' in the Japanese language.

Colin


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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 10:28 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 11:03 am 
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 Post subject: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 1:27 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Classical Bonsai Award at 1st National Bonsai Exhibition
PostPosted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 2:55 pm 
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Amy's whole paragraph needs to be read, not just the first sentence.

She says that literati is easy to create, but successful literati is the hardest to create. Note the words "successful" and "hardest". :)


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