Chairman's Tips

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Saikei and Bonkei
In Japan there are art forms which are of interest to us Bonsai enthusiasts; Bonsai is what we
associate with along with others, such as Saikei and Bonkei.
Bonsai is explained as consisting of two words, bon, a pot or tray, and sai, planting, therefore
bonsai is translated as a plant in a tray or pot.
Saikei, sai as in planting (the second written character of bonsai) and kei means landscape thus
saikei is translated as a planted landscape.
Now put the written characters bonsai and saikei together and take away the redundant sai and sai,
you end up with
bonkei, a tray landscape or seascape.
Saikei was founded after World War 2 by Toshio Kawamoto in Japan. Saikei means much the same
as bonkei, the difference being that bonkei is essentially a dry landscape where living plants are
seldom used and saikei which depends exclusively on living plants for effect.

Saikei is the art of creating a planted tray landscapes that combine miniature living trees with soil,
rocks, water, and related vegetation (like ground cover) in a single tray or similar container
The term saikei means the art of creating a miniature landscape. This too is a form of Bonsai, which
goes back to the tradition of the most celebrated Japanese gardens, even though the origins of this
type of composition are to be found in China.

Saikei can be found with miniature statues, tiny houses, and other landscape items, contained within them. However, in its purest form, this type of Bonsai calls exclusively for natural items, such as trees, soil, rock and sand.
In order to create a Bonsai landscape, you will go about it in exactly the same way as if preparing a forest group. Plants of the same species are generally chosen, but of different ages and sizes even though they should all be relatively young. The trees should then be introduced into the landscape itself.
At this point the imagination of the Bonsai enthusiast comes into play; who, through an inspired choice of miniature rocks and stones, should open up the widest horizons. It is also a question of experimenting with sizes and proportions, colours and perspectives, to create a scene that is both remarkable and individual.

We hope, when meetings resume, to have David Penny, who was due to give a talk on Saikei/Bonkei last year, will give us a talk and demonstration on Saikei/Bonkei.

Figures show some of David Penny’s Saikei at last year’s UKBA Auction.
The use of stones and pebbles in a saikei composition are also part of another artistic technique from the Far East, that of bonkei.
Although bonkei materials are usually dry, flowing water and seaside’s are often depicted, with varying colours of gravel or sand making up the land and the water elements. A bonkei may also contain miniature figures of people, animals, buildings, bridges, and other common outdoor items. Both bonkei and saikei in fact originate in Zen philosophy, introduced into Japan from China in the late twelfth century. The School of Zen Buddhism teaches that contemplation of one’s essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the single way to achieve complete and pure enlightenment.
Chinese Zen has developed with the hardship of monastic life and early paintings depicted monks in contemplation amid an austere mountainous landscape of rock, sparsely leaved shrubs, and coniferous trees. There are five keys available to the observer, the rock can be seen as a mountain, as an abstract representation of an animal, as a stylized figure. It can be chosen for its colour or for the imaginary flowers to be seen growing on its surface.
As in the case of the Bonsai, it is essential to that the bonkei be placed in the appropriate container, which will serve to heighten the reading of the subject. The only human participation which is allowed in bonkei, is the arrangement of the container, in which case the base of the selected stone may be cut and shaped accordingly. The natural growth cannot be tampered with in any other way, and it is essential when displayed, that the bonkei succeeds in showing off to best advantage its sides and its most notable features
Figures show typical bonkei, a tray landscape or seascape.