American Bonsai Society
Bonsai containers as ceramic art
By Fred Aufschläger
The Concept of Bonsai as Art
While it is not our intent to explain the full history and philosophy of the art of bonsai, without some background this article on bonsai containers may be intellectually. An essay by the much respected Japanese bonsai master, Kyuzo Murata, differentiates between bonsai and Hachiuye, or potted plant.
"Bonsai is a living plant transferred to a pot or tray or rock or stone so that it can continue to live semi-permanently. It has not only a natural beauty of the particular plant but the appearance reminds people of something other than the plant itself. It could be a scene, a forest or part of a forest, a lone tree in the field, a seascape, a lake, a river, or a stream or a pond. It is also possible that a certain appearance reminds a person of the wind blowing through the branches.
In Japan, the meaning of bonsai is to create a natural scene on a tray, using plants as the main materials. When you take a Hachiuye, or potted plant, you can only see "prettiness of the plant or flower". It does not remind you of anything else...
Bonsai should not be a mere sketch of a scene, or a three dimensional exhibit from a photograph of a scene.
It is perfectly all right to use nature as the subject, but the goal should be a sketch which has been refined and trimmed in your mind before you start creating. Only then can you call it art...
Bonsai is a strange art wherein one can produce a feeling of the reality of nature by manipulation, over a long period of time, of trees, stones, rocks, trays or pots. And every bonsai is original. It goes on for ever and ever." 1
It is important to note that the bonsai container, be it ceramic or stone is an integral part of bonsai. The tree cannot be called bonsai by itself. Nor can the container alone be bonsai.
The Tradition of the Bonsai Container