(An ongoing compilation of memories, notes and ideas)

© 2005-2017, Robert J. Baran

This page Last Updated: March 19, 2017

Early Years
Going Public
No Longer
Wish List

       See also RJB bio page, Magical Miniature Landscapes intro, and SiteKudos page for additional background.  This project has been and continues to be a group effort.

       (I first learned about bonsai through Ann Pipe's book in late October 1969.  As this was in the days before seemingly every house had a copier/printer -- yes, pre-PC -- I used tracing paper to record several of the line drawings.  Those sketches are long gone...)

Over the next 16 years, other than the 1967 Readers' Digest article about Murata, the first Sunset Bonsai book, and occasional newspaper articles, I really didn't read anything about bonsai or its background.  A plant or two a year -- mostly junipers -- were kept by me as minimal experience, usually in an orange clay flowerpot after receiving a little pruning to shape roughly.  I did happen to have been familiarizing myself a little, however, with Chinese history since the late 1970s due to some ongoing research on the Chinese pyramids, specifically those near Xian.)

       I initially got serious about bonsai in February 1986 when I planted some seeds gotten through a Spencer Gifts mail order kit containing a half dozen varieties.  Of the plants that came up, a Japanese Red Pine (Pinus densiflora) lasted the longest -- through the middle of June 1988 when I accidentally left it on the south-facing apartment porch rail till late morning [in Phoenix, AZ]...  Other and larger nursery, dug, or established trees would come and go through my collection.  (And reviewing notes, I see I also had a small Italian Stone Pine (P. pinea) Christmas tree from December 85 - June 86).

       The first books about bonsai which I read included: BBG's Handbook of Bonsai: Special Techniques, Bonsai by Paul Lesniewicz, The Masters' Book of Bonsai by Koide Nobukichi et al, Miniatures and Bonsai by Philip Perl, The Beginner's Guide to American Bonsai by Jerald P. Stowell, A Dwarfed Tree Manual for Westerners by Samuel Newsom, Bonsai -- Miniature Trees by Claude Chidamian, The Creative Art of Bonsai by Isabelle and Rémy Samson, and Shufunotomo's The Essentials of Bonsai.  Their few lines about the history were written down and constituted the beginning of my journey.

       In the spring of 1986 I joined the American Bonsai Society and started receiving their quarterly Bonsai Journal and the ABStracts newsletter.

       At the old Main Phoenix Public Library (across the street from where I worked), I scoured the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature to track down early articles and references.  I basically chose articles by what was suggested by the title, and then looked them up.  As the Library has a good selection of bound and microfilmed periodicals, I'd make a certain length list and then hit the shelves or the cabinets.  I easily perused at least 5x as many articles as finally made the first versions of the pre-WWII and post-WWII lists (a handy arbitrary division point) over the next few years.  (I'm sure not all the articles have yet been found.)

       In September I joined the Phoenix Bonsai Society.  In a short time I would discover their holdings of back issues of BCI's Bonsai Magazine and IBA's International Bonsai.  Then various members' private holdings of Bonsai Today and some early copies of the ABS Bonsai Journal and current GSBF Golden Statements.  Wu Yee-Sun's Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants, editions 1 and 2, were seen in the holdings of the PBS, as well as John Naka's Bonsai Techniques I, II, and Satsuki (an out-of-print volume which, unfortunately, later disappeared).  I photocopied much -- four file cabinet drawers' worth to date.

       A copy of Deborah Koreshoff's 1984 Bonsai; Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy was found at Arizona State University's library in December 1986.  Its nineteen page history would have sufficed this researcher if it had been read six months earlier -- but when I did view it I discovered that I had already uncovered a few bits of early American bonsai history not dealt with by Australian Koreshoff.  Probably the first big "A-ha!" moment.  So, I continued...   (That same library visited yielded the first of the Garden and Forest articles I would find.)

       The bibliography early on was expanded to include other titles known-of but not seen.  The Phoenix Public Library's copy of the National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints (© 1970 Mansell Information/Publishing Limited.  ©1970 The American Library Association, Chicago.  With 685 main volumes and another sixty-nine (plus?) as supplements, this is about the closest American equivalent you can readily find to the numerous massive encyclopedias of old China) was searched for titles, principally by known and intuited -- Japanese mostly -- authors' last names.  This was done, fortunately, at the library's old site on McDowell Rd.   (After the move a few blocks south on Central Ave., these volumes were stored out of ready access.)  The Phoenix Art Museum, right next door to the old location, was visited on my lunch hour during a few Japanese woodblock print exhibitions.

       From February 1987 through 2002, I participated in the Phoenix Bonsai Society's largest show of the year, which was a part of the City of Phoenix Japanese Week Matsuri.  Here I could discuss with club members and general public on a one-on-one basis things I was learning about the history of bonsai in general, picking up a few things I didn't know, and making an occasional correction to common bonsai mythology.  At some point I did the voice-over for a few of the demonstrations presented during the shows, adding a few more historical details as the years went by.

       Research-wise, background info via Japan the Official Guide (copy of 1941 edition gotten at the Visiting Nurses Auxilary Annual Booksale in February 1988) and E. Papinot's Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan continued to connect a few more dots.

       Moving the earliest known use of "bonsai" in English [at the time] back a generation (August 1989).

       Memories of getting up a little earlier before work to wake up my mental engines by having breakfast while reading a chapter from Siebold, Dr. Philipp Franz von  Manners and Customs of the Japanese or Yule, Col. Sir Henry (trans. & ed.)  The Book of Ser Marco Polo The Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East or Bretschneider, Emil, M.D.  History of European Botanical Discoveries in China and also his Botanicon Sinicum.

       CPT 8” Floppy disks were the first storage media for the history which I was starting to compile, afterhours where I worked (1986-1990).

       The earliest lecture I gave on the history of bonsai took place in September of 1989 at a meeting of the Phoenix club.  For most of the members present, this was the first time they were aware that such a thing existed.  (One more formal lecture before the club would follow, as well as a lecture in front of a local civic group and a 45 minute run-through to a captive audience of 3 other club members on a trip back from a Tucson nursery in June of 2000.)  The Phoenix club holds its biggest annual show during the Japanese Week Matsuri downtown.  Almost every late February from 1987 through 2002 I participated, providing some of the commentary during demonstrations, displaying a few trees, and sharing a little more history with club members or visitors.  Also accompanying me to many of the Phoenix club meetings was my son, Andrew (b.1990).  On occasions he helped draw names for club raffles, as well as sometimes sitting in the corner of the meeting room making Lego® bonsai.  His mother, my first wife, would refer to my bonsai historical research (half-humorously?) as "the other woman."



       A member of the Phoenix Bonsai Society (whose name is long forgotten) suggested to me during the February 1990 Matsuri show that the way to prelude a book was by having articles on the subject published first.  So I wrote "Hachi No Ki" (my first hand-written draft is undated; my typed submission was responded to by ABS editor Jack Wikle on May 29, 1990).  Several contemporary references had made passing mention of this Noh play -- including variations on the lead character's name -- and I thought it deserved further telling of background and plot.  The bibliographical works I now have listed for that play on this website and other volumes had already been studied by this time.

       This was followed by "Some Bonsai Futures" (first hand-written draft is dated July 1, 1990; typed submission responded to on October 25, 1990).  But Jack Wikle wisely suggested "Futures" would be a stronger/better introduction of me to the bonsai community.  The many history notes I'd compiled had gotten me thinking about what we probably would see and experience regarding this art/hobby.  The article did require substantial rewriting on my part based on many perceptive observations by Jack.  After two last-minute publication drops due to space considerations, "Some Bonsai Futures" was finally published in the Fall 1991 issue of ABS Journal.  "Hachi No Ki" was then published in the Summer 1992 issue, having been passed on to the new editor, Arch Hawkins.

       I retyped my book notes into a Commodore 64 word processing program and expanded the draft (1990-93).

       "America Peeks" was published in the Winter 1992 Journal, having initially been received by Arch Hawkins by mid-October 1992.  (My hand-written first draft for the article "18th & 19th Century America's Peaks [sic] at Bonsai" is dated August 28, 1992; the second draft with the final title is from September 3).  The Colonial involvement with the China trade pushed back our first exposures to dwarf potted trees and I wanted to share this knowledge.

       Then as I learned my way around Word Perfect software, I retyped all the growing book notes again (1993-98), but then was able to have them switched fairly automatically over to MS Word (c.1998)

       Annual late-summer workshops with visiting teachers were started for the Phoenix club in 1993.  Our first guest sensei was Mel Ikeda, followed by Jim Barrett (who I specifically interviewed for historical info), Sze-Ern "Ernie" Kuo, Roy Nagatoshi, and Ben Oki.  Ben was our annual teacher from 1998 up to 2012, with his workshops early on moved to a slightly cooler October and then November setting.  David Nguy took over the workshops beginning in 2013, but I have not actually met him, having not gotten back to Phoenix in many years.

       One particular tree I had resulted in an early monograph.  Because of the long, hot summers in Phoenix where everything seemed to stop growing mid-year, I turned some of my attention to a large Elephant Food (Portulacaria afra).  Able to grow happily in the heat, with cuttings very, very easily rooting, this and its progeny provided me with a lot of research material beginning with my first extensive notes in 1993.

       Many set decorations involving bonsai or reasonable facsimiles were discovered while just relaxing and watching TV or movies/videos.  My very first hand-written draft of an article was dated November 18, 1992 and titled "On the Big and Small Screen."  It did have a subsection with just the "Star Trek" episodes labeled "To Boldly Grow."  Nothing much was done with this for nearly three years.  The first dated typed version is marked August 1, 1995 with the title "Some Screen Portrayals of Bonsai."  My hand-written editing of this changed the title to "To Boldly Grow: Some Cinematic Bonsai."  Per an e-mail to RJB from editor Jill Hurd on November 8, 1995, the article was split into two parts and put into the two-column format (which I also used when the info was reproduced on this website).  The article saw print in ABS Bonsai Journal issues Winter 1995 and Spring 1996.  I hadn't seen anything like this in the magazines previously, so I thought maybe it would be fun to do.  Some of the references I had gathered were not used in that article.  Many of the others were found posted on the Internet Bonsai Club's newsgroup (either with or without some passing reference to this site's listings), and a few just e-mailed directly to me.  These became "To Boldly Grow: Some Celluloid Bonsai (Part III)."  (At least one acquaintance has reprimanded me about using the split infinitive...)  Hud Nordin's opening haiku originated in an e-mail to me about the year 2000.  In 2001 I split the references after the year 1999 into a Part IV.  As additional sightings were made or brought to my attention they were put into the appropriate part (III or IV) of the chronology.  A summary and analysis of the years and media was first compiled in November 2004.  I finally got around to begin including computer and video games portrayals near the end of April 2005.

Old Phoenix Main Library,
built in 1953, image from 1950s postcard,
but the exterior of the two-story building looked very much the same decades later
Burton Barr Central Library,
built in 1995 a few blocks south of old Main, with its natural sun-lit Great Reading Room on the 5th floor

       I initially joined the Internet Bonsai Club in April 1995.  Regularly viewing and sometimes participating thru August 1996, I very briefly stopped in the spring of 1998 before rejoining in May 1999.  A very decent bunch of around 500+ people from all over the globe, they do hold surprisingly strong opinions when it comes to subjects as wide-ranging as digging wild trees to preserving original bonsai styles in collection trees to handling pests and feeding formulae.  And a whole lot more.  During the first year or so I shared a little history and picked up new info and confirmation of some things.

       An initial hand-written draft of "Club Tree Experience Survey" was composed on September 18, 1995.  The typed article was faxed to Jean C. Smith, the managing Editor of BCI Bonsai Magazine, on October 24.  It was published in the January/February 1996 issue, coincidentally as the last article in the last issue edited by Jean.  This came about when I realized I'd never seen mention of such a project (above) in any of the books or magazines.  I figured that others might do similar surveys for their locales.  Re-reading this article, I very clearly see the basic framework for Designing Dwarfs in the Desert, Up Through the First 35 Years of the Phoenix Bonsai Society (November 1997).  That book's basic decade-chapter format can be traced back to the format I used for an in-house history compiled for a company I worked at between 1984 and 1992.  (I've used that format in subsequnet histories.)

       Queries to a dozen and a half Japanese/Asian subject publishers in the mid-1990s resulted in the awareness that this project -- some 600 single-spaced pages on all aspects of the history from neolithic China up through the near future -- was simply too detailed for most in-print markets.  Several rejection letters suggested that if I cut it down to around 200 pages they might consider it.  "I'll get back to you" was my unspoken reply.

       In 1996, a series of talks with Wendy Zaritsky, a self-published author and editor living in Phoenix at the time, led me to see the possibility of self-publishing the "Big History."  It was she who suggested that I come up with a catchier name than my ultra-pragmatic working title: An Introduction to the History of Bonsai and Penjing.  So, I went through my typed notes and came upon the phrase "Magical Miniature Landscapes" (which dates at least from 1992).  That became the new title -- and was first used in print for 1997's Designing Dwarfs in the Desert (page 2 top, page 71 bottom, page 79 top as the title of what was planned to be my forthcoming book, and with an accidentally flipped version of the phraseology on the middle of the back cover).   (BTW, our club history's very first working title was Designed Dwarfs in the Desert.  Soon I realized that it made more sense to do this as an ongoing story.)  This club history focused my research for the next two years.  In March 1997 I finally attended my first non-Phoenix show: the California Bonsai Society's 40th anniversary presentation plus the opening of the GSBF South collection at the Huntington Museum.  During these four days, by way of a chartered bus with a dozen other club members, I experienced my first true all-bonsai nurseries.  (So what if I was the president of the club?  My enthusiasm spilled forth like the proverbial kid in the candy shop!)  I finally met longtime Phoenix club honorary sensei John Naka, along with a few other national and international teachers such as E. Felton Jones and Pius Notter. 

       In July 1998 I was able to visit the National Bonsai Museum at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. for the first time.  (It was part of a very taxing whirlwind one-week tour of the capitol by my second wife and I.)  At the Museum I met curator Warren Hill.

       I also had/have the knack on more than a few occasions of opening a non-bonsai, non-Asian history book -- fact or fiction -- and randomly finding the only and unexpected use of the word "bonsai" in the entire volume.



       Getting e-mail access to the Internet in April 1999 also gave me 5MB of space for a personal website.  I didn't have that much to talk about for myself, but, hey, I did know of this one gardening club, and maybe I could also squeeze in a few things from my "big history" project...  And so it began.  (I tweaked the template background color a couple of times to lighten it up.)  The amount of space available over time rose to 10MB, then 20MB, and now has jumped to an almost unimaginable 1GB+.  From the very start I searched for additional info on ideal website construction and incorporated the standard Top 10 Tips -- the main reason there were no appreciable graphics on our home page until the summer of 2010.  (Oh, other than the "dancing pyramid" .gif     {click} which was an option in the Netscape template and which I, of course, had to use.  When the front page was revised, the pyramids went to the Pyramid Dancer page, naturally.)  Also, from the beginning was the intent to assemble a website with all the credible and documented info and links that I would have liked to have found had it been available when I first started my research on the history of bonsai and related arts.

       Versions of Netscape Composer had been used for the now first third of the html incarnation of the history (1999 to mid-January 2006).  Arachnophilia 5.2 was then adopted when I had a computer switch, to be replaced by CoffeCup in June 2012 with another computer switch -- Arachnophilia just wouldn't work on the new machine for some reason, although I did try.

       At the beginning of May 1999 I attended the ABS Symposium down the road in Tucson.  This is where I started discussing our new website and, with a few of the ABS folks, what turned out to be the first but unpublished version of The Bonsai Coloring Book.

       A sifting of info from Designing Dwarfs for a planned eventual John Naka obituary -- something many newspapers and magazines have pre-written -- was thankfully and quickly reworked by early May 1999 as an ongoing biography.  What was meant to be a series of other master bios resulted in the life stories of Yoshimura (by August 1999), Katō (by October), and Murata (by December).  A few other masters were early drafted but never followed through with.

       A visitor counter was added by late May.  My ABS articles were reproduced on the site upon receipt of permission from then ABS editor Jill Hurd.

       By September 1999 we had English Language Bonsai Bibliographies, Pre-1945, Post-1945 (the latter not really being kept up), and my thesis of the history as The Big Picture.  October saw the first listings of the Books and Magazines.  During the next couple of months the entries for the books were color-coded by a (somewhat arbitrary) category system.  In response to a Chris Cochrane e-mail about the number of books I had listed, I overestimated severely -- I think I unconsciously added the number of clubs I had once tallied.  When I did an actual count soon after and realized my mistake, I began the analysis which since about November 2002 has been on that page.  I keep the complete detailed breakdown on an Excel spreadsheet.   As new additions to the list require a complete retotaling which is then transferred to the web page and double-checked by hand-held calculator, I wait until I have several titles before doing an update.

       In January 2000 saw lectures before the Phoenix Club by both Cindy Reed and pre-apprentice Michael Hagedorn.  One year later, Mary and Peter Bloomer of Flagstaff gave us an excellent slide presentation on suiseki.

       By March 2000 came the first version of what may possibly have been seen as a very audacious project, the Bonsai Book of Days.   In late November came Origins of Some of the Terms.  (About a year later I came upon a site elsewhere on the Internet that had an older but less ambitious listing of Chinese and English words.)  By January 2001 came Japanese Portrayals in Paintings and Woodblock Prints -- apparently the first time anywhere side-by-side representations were shown.  Chinese Portrayals would come in March, as well as a Site Search engine.  November 2001 saw the first listing of online club newsletters.  Also the listing of Chinese Schools and Styles -- which Scottish teacher Craig Coussins quickly stumbled upon and which text was slightly modified for use in his book The Bonsai School a little more than a year later.  And the new year saw the centennial publication of the first European-language work entirely about bonsai.

       March 2002 saw the splitting of John Naka's bio into two (more easily readable) parts -- it was later split further -- plus the first of Some of What We Don't Know About the History of Magical Miniature Landscapes.  (A number of "Don't Knows" actually were scribbled down initially while I was in line at the bank prior to my late March household move from the Phoenix area up to Kingman with my third wife.  You just never know when and where insights will pour out...  Several times since then I would have to get out of bed at night before falling asleep in order to jot down a headful of thoughts about what we Don't Know, so that I could then forget about them and go to sleep.  While reading other subjects, I often have been able to take away non-horticultural concepts and turn them into questions eligible for "Don't Know."  The "pre-sleep download" has taken place for several sections, including the Assumptions Used on this Website portion of the MML start page.)  Momentary paradigm-shift: has a small part of this been "channeling" of anonymous bonsai teachers who are on the "other side of the veil"?!?)

       In May 2002, I was fortunate enough to attend the International Scholarly Symposium on Bonsai and Viewing Stones at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.  There I was able to interview Jerry Stowell (whom I had corresponded with by postage mail twice in 2000), Ted Tsukiyama, and Doris Froning.  While having lunch with such persons as Marty Klein, John Romano, Chris Cochrane, and Marco Favero I was able to meet John Naka, again, and Saburō Katō for the first time.  And I had a chance to briefly act as a doyen at the Bonsai and Penjing Museum when I spontaneously took twenty minutes to explain a few of the fine points of bonsai to three or four people who were wandering by Goshin at the moment I was passing by that famous forest of John Naka's and who were engaging in a range of speculation on their own about that work.

       During the Mohave County Home and Garden Shows in Kingman during mid-March 2003 and 2004 and a few meetings the following summers, I talked about and demonstrated on bonsai basics, including history.  A few people who were interested enough to stick with it continue the art/hobby in northwestern Arizona, but there apparently wasn't enough steam to get a club continuing there.

       My earlier collecting of postage stamps had several from China, including a few with bonsai/penjing.  Some of the postage stamps -- image scans or leads -- used on this website (from October 1999 on) were also e-mailed to me because of the others seen on the site.  A listing of specifically fraudulent stamps was started in May 2005.  (I am aware of the arguments about not depicting such issues.  However, the graphics I have for these are definitely not mint-quality for further illegal replication, and the authority source text is not detailed enough for complete identification.  This is an educational website.)

       By the end of 2003 we had the first Magazine Covers, and the first historical Anomalies.

       In late October 2004 I started searching the Library of Congress online links to the Memory of America project for optically scanned issues of periodicals from the 19th century.  Several early article references to dwarf trees were discovered there and typed/proofed on to this site.

       A number of  times a year or so I'll spend a few hours looking on the Internet for useful additional background for any of the material already here on this site.  That's basically where updates come from.  BTW, I have mixed feelings when I enter a search phrase/person's name and our site comes up as the only result.  Yes, I am glad that this website is so authoritative on the subject; but, no, when I am searching I want some new information!

       Growing up I did read a few history and archaeology texts -- most memorable was C.W. Ceram's Gods, Graves and Scholars.  Archaeology was considered one of my career paths in grade school.  (Life happened and I chose marine biology in high school, which became Radio-TV-Film due to college choice based on family budget, which was then interrupted by the real world after three years.)  My childhood home, of course, received National Geographic and Life magazines; I later became a fan of Smithsonian magazine.  Early on I had become the family historian, both as genealogist and keeper of some old headline newspapers and magazines.  I had no formal history training after the standard classes in college, but did and do read occasional articles on the discipline.  Also, I devour works on legitimate historical revision, history trivia, debunking of pseudohistory, and archaeological discoveries around the world -- officially recognized or not.
       My note-taking and article-clipping days go back to grade school, memorably including David Dietz's syndicated newspaper science column.  Numerous newspaper and magazine articles became dust in an un-cooled closed-down office in Phoenix during a summer c.1976.  I started clipping again with a passion and a decade later I had a private classification system for a couple hundred folders' worth of material.
       My interest in Japan dates back to grade school when my uncle -- who would later nominally enroll me in the Phoenix Bonsai Society in October 1971 -- sent back a few [non-bonsai] items from Japan during his short military posting there.  (The Reader's Digest Murata article followed a couple years later.)  My interest in things Chinese probably dates from a decade further on.  Over the years various projects I've worked on have made me aware of some of the promise and perils of research and translation, including some extensive genealogical historical studies.  In the past seventeen years or so I've read a few in-print or electronic articles regarding writing and researching history to specifically help me stay focused.  There has also been exposure over time to various broadcast or recorded programs from the Public Broadcasting System, the History Channel, A&E, the Discovery Channel, and so forth.  Plus, it is not so much academic knowledge as just understanding what it is that I have been doing for thirty-one years in compiling this history.  The hundreds of articles and hundreds of books I've looked at do have their own patterns and flows, sometimes immediately evident, sometimes made aware of during meditation upon a different book.  I take a variety of notes and make some photocopies in addition to my high memory-retrieval rate.

       My horticultural interest started also during grade school when I helped my dad with his vegetable garden at our house in the Cleveland suburb of Seven Hills.  (My mom's father also had a vegetable garden, but he passed away when I was six years old so my memories of him were brief.)  Dad's garden extended slightly off the property into an undeveloped section of woods, and when I discovered bonsai at the end of the decade, my first field-collected specimens were red maple saplings from those woods.  A young birch growing alongside a much larger and mature "Gray root" specimen never got to be collected by me -- probably for the better.  My gardening with dad continued with our family's move to Phoenix, and years later I had my son Andrew and niece Patricia help me with some spring planting in dad's garden.  Andrew grew up with my mostly apartment balcony bonsai collections, and he helped a few times here after we got settled in Colorado with my own vegetable garden (now up to over 1,500 square feet/140 sq meters -- larger than the floorplan of our house).  In 2016 my son grew some veggies on his own apartment balcony.

RJB Bonsai Collection October 1996 RJB Bonsai Collection 1999

RJB Bonsai Collection March 2003

       The written sources I do check out are basically approached two ways: either a book or article is known or suspected to have some of this history in it or else the material is believed at least to have useful general background info.  Either of these two sources might contain illustrations of bonsai portrayals.  I have looked at scores of art and landscape books while searching for previously unseen pictures -- again, primarily about Chinese or Japanese collections or subjects.  Titles or persons mentioned in any of the above are then looked up on the Internet for additional details.  If additional details are to be found or seem to be found in new books or articles, these are then researched similarly.  And the hunt can begin again.  (At any given time I might have one or two more titles to be InterLibrary Loan ordered...)  Plus, the Internet can be a wonderful source of material on innumerable subjects -- judiciously considered, especially in light of my past researches and readings.

       Regarding A Suggested Timeline for the Development of Magical Miniature Landscapes,
       “"Last November [2004] I started building this particular web page based on key notes from my unpublished manuscript/researches.  I decided I needed to then have the footnotes available in order to continue the unwritten theme I've used in creating this website: a well-documented and detailed exploration.  (In the 60s and 70s issues of the bonsai magazines, there were so many short articles/space fillers rehashing just a few points of the history.  Shortly after I started my researches I learned that I had come upon info not previously published in these articles or books, so I continued...)  I initially realized that many of the chronology notes were from sections whose citations had been grouped by chapter, essentially blending the origin of the specific points.  So, I started to comb through all my old notes, earlier drafts and assorted photocopies of source material gathered since early 1986.  Only the other day I decided that the motivation to complete this was by putting what I had right now on the web.  So I did a 'final push' yesterday and published what I had.
       "I know additional points will further flesh out this chronology which is, I suppose to be technical, my working hypothesis on how magical miniature landscapes developed out of the various suggested cultural sources to be what it is today."
       from RJB's e-mail to Marty Haber, May 23, 2005, after Marty complimented the page.  The three column format mirrored a tri-fold heavy cardboard poster (each section 28"W x 44"H or 71.1cm W x 111.8cm H), similarly headed, which I used for my second talk before the club.  (It is sitting less than 3 feet/91 cm away from me as I type this...)

       In mid-August 2005 I finished the first version of the ongoing background story to this research, On the Creative Process of Compiling This History (this present page you are reading, which I first started to work on in late May 2003).  And I followed it with a new page: many books, articles and sites mention the early international expositions (Paris and London, usually) that had bonsai on display, but my studies show it wasn't that short and simple -- or accurately repeated.  This was another "a-ha!  Why don't I set the record straight?" moment.  And so it was created, hyperlinked and published: Expositions Know to Have Had Bonsai Present.

       In late August we switched to double alpha designations for the various languages in the books listing.  And the following month I joined the local Pikes Peak Bonsai Society, having moved with my fourth/final/best wife and family to the Colorado Springs area at the very end of June.  (Way back when, life was very naïvely "supposed" to be simple: graduate college, meet a nice woman, settle down, work just a few jobs during one's life, retire in relative comfort.  Life does/did not turn out anything like that.  And I am thinking it is/was so much better the way it actually happens/happened...  Just like in parallel universes I am variously an award-winning marine biologist or make-up artist or science fiction writer...)

       What is hoped to be the [slow] start of a database log of Dreams we've had involving our past, present and future bonsai was published.  Take a look and let me know if you would like to contribute something.

       The Kokufu-ten page was not originally meant to be the definitive source of info for that prestigious bonsai exhibition.  In late September 2005 I started to put together a quickie table-chart to show in which year which number show took place.  I soon discovered that, as I went backwards from the 80th show scheduled in 2006, the numbering was confounded in the 1950s and earlier.  An e-mail to Dr. Tom Elias of the National Arboretum received a partial answer.  I started to add in the bits and pieces of Kokufu history of which I knew.  A copy of the numbering list sent to Dr. Tom I then sent to William N. Valavanis in late October.  Much to my pleasant surprise, this started a veritable flood of information from Bill in his e-mails back-and-forth to me, along with album cover images.  Sometime in November the first official version of this page was published on the web site.  Bill was able to find a few more dated shows and I did also from my ongoing researches.  He then asked that I re-send him on February 7, 2006 a list of questions about the show which he would have with him in Tokyo for which he would then get the answers.  This was dutifully accomplished, and I am very grateful that he was able to work into his busy schedule (leading a tour of some 43 persons) the sending of some answers to me.  The Kokufu-ten page was being updated during the show in near real-time.  Upon his return Bill e-mailed me some photos he had taken and several of these I added to the pages.  And so these pages now provide much more info about this grand show than had been previously gathered in any other medium or language.  That is the essence of what I've been working to achieve here.

       My writing and research on this website has redirected most of my interest in writing articles on this subject for outside sources.  I never was a quickie, filler or fluff article writer: I admit that my articles are usually concentrated and require more than one reading to digest.  With web publishing, typo corrections and updates can be made literally at any time of day and as often as I want.  A topic can be expanded upon and/or hyperlinked without concern of page size or printing schedules, and thus this version of the "Big History" is much more fluid and comprehensive than any even looseleaf print version could have been twenty years ago if the history had been chosen for publication then. 

       It is conceivable that at some point I could gather all the immutable pages together, such as the historical articles, and get them published in hard copy form for ready-reference by anyone so interested.  I agree that for much ofthat type of material a book-in-hand format with proper indexing would be easier and quicker to check, compared with going online.  There have been a few times that I've briefly discussed an in-print version -- specifically with Jim Lewis and Chris Cochrane, among others.  A local college press was suggested as perhaps the best option.  We will see...

       If I come upon news of a recent event I can include it, along with a whole range of relevant details.  One of many times that I demonstrated this to myself, for example, was with the May 11, 2001 Boldly Grow entry for "Wall$treet Week with Louis Rukeyser."  Within a half hour of my seeing this with bonsai set décor, this was listed on the website and worldwide on the Internet.  And, a few times, minor corrections received by e-mail were applied within an hour of my checking my mail.  This site, in its own very small and modest way, is exploring the modern compiling of [ancient] history.

       One project I was working on (beginning July 2006) was something for the American Bonsai Society's new booklet series.  The version of the history of dwarfed potted trees I was doing for them takes a little different approach to the subject than what is mostly found on this present website.  The print date was supposed to have been February 2007, but when I submitted the material at the end of December I coincidentally received an e-mail stating that ABS had put future booklets on hold due to financial constraints.  The process of assembling the material in a different fashion, anyway, caused me to see new connections and to look more closely at less obvious data in the older articles.  (I met with the ABS president at the June 2012 Denver convention and related the history of my booklet.  He asked me to send him my manuscript for it.  Making just a few updates, I did, and he responded that the format was different but a little jarring.  I started to put the material into standard chronological order, but then realized that with the various projects I had going and several renderings of the history of bonsai and related arts that I had put on-line, my heart was not into doing another rendering right now.  So I responded cordially and he left the door open for me if and when I changed my mind later.)

       Another project is a massive addition to Japanese Portrayals, courtesy of researcher Horst Graebner.  Over 4 dozen images have been added, all from the hand of the woodblock artist Kunisada.  Several trees snow-covered in winter; several new varieties not previously seen in prints.  An important broadening of our idea of dwarfed potted trees from c.1820-1868.  This is now "completed."

       Then in November 2006 I finally started to venture into Google Books, a vast resource of digitalized public domain works.  Several additional early mentions of either Chinese or Japanese dwarf potted trees have been found, and these are being added to this site over time.  Very basically, after I locate a reference, I go to the Plain Text version and cut and paste what I need to a special long document I keep.  Illustrations are saved to the appropriate file on my computer and I use either the programs Picasa or Paint to do slight touch-up if necessary.  (In the interests of full-disclosure, there is only one illustration on this site -- now on phoenixbonsai.com -- which I altered.  A picture from one of the Matsuri's was usable -- except for a vertical line lining up, uh, inappropriately with one of the people.  I painted the line out and no one apparently knows the better.  I have "corrected" the color and saturation of many pictures, and I have done a little cropping of some, but I have never altered any other graphic.  I do not even know how to use the Photoshop software.  "And that is all I'm going to say about that.")  Anyway, the URL is then saved.  When I am ready to add the page to the web-site, I find a suitable existing page for use as a model, save it to a different title, and proceed to make general changes.  Copying the text to the web page, I split long page lines and replace certain punctuation that won't copy correctly.  (This site is a valuable asset for correct characters.)  Line break code is added as well as paragraph breaks and indents.  Next, I add in the illustrations with any captions.  At this point I will start to proof the web page against the original text.  Hyperlinks, notes with cross-references to existing articles, and biographies get added.  Add to pre-1945 Bibliography, and/or Travellers pages and I am ready to publish it all.  Small articles could be done in one long sitting, while larger articles may take several different days.

       Google Books also led me to check Fa-ti Fan's  2004 British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and Cultural Encounter.  A spin-off from studying this book via InterLibrary Loan is a page here listing dwarf trees actually seen in England.  A similar page for France was also compiled.  And sometime I may do the same for other countries.  My cornucopia of early references to dwarf potted trees in China or Japan continues to pour out with additional insight into what really was announced about these.  I've had to become more critical of what I include, although I may make a catch-all page for very brief references which are otherwise not stand-alone worthy.

       An Internet Bonsai Club mention in February 2007 of an upcoming celebration of 100 years of bonsai in Germany led me to the site about that.  With some Babel Fish machine translation help, I focused my search on Georg Meister who has now predated Kaempfer in briefly writing about Japanese dwarf potted trees to a European audience (1692--1727).  That page then ended up being referenced in IBC when the event took place in June.  And a commemorative book in German has now raised the bar for further research.  (Details on a second person, J.H. Seidel from 1803, are now being tracked down along with his specific mention of Chinese dwarf potted trees.)  Research in Google Books would lead me in late 2008 to Peter Mundy's earlier 1637 reference in English (although the actual historical journal entry was not [widely?] published until 1919.)

       A series of e-mails in May 2007 led me to being gifted by former BCI president Alan Walker a whole collection of digital photos which he had taken or otherwise come into possession of during the past several years.  These he is graciously allowing me to add throughout this site to greatly enhance the tales herein.

       In May and June I added the break-downs of several of the kanji used in the Origins of Some of the Terms.

       While doing an educational poster in late January 2008 based on text I had originally written as the pp. 1 & 2 introduction in Designing Dwarfs in the Desert, I thought about the line "Our interest in this is now shared by others acting either alone or associated with some eight hundred clibs in over seventy countries and territories."  How many locations was bonsai in?  I made a quick list and temporarily left it at about eighty.  Two months later, thinking about this further, I started doing research in my collection of specialty-magazine back issues.  A preliminary new web page began to be fleshed out.  In May while writing the bottom of the page apology for certain arbitrary definitions, I realized that I needed to be more detailed with the individual states and provinces listed for at least some of the countries.  I went back into the back issues and additional pages were made.  By early September the first draft of this section was ready for publication and announced on a few key web sites.  It was soon after this time that links to that section and the Book of Days were added to our home page.  Additional forums for bonsai enthusiasts around the world have also been added here.

       At February 2009 meeting, the Pikes Peak Bonsai Society had a hands-on making of custom pots with clay the club had purchased.  The pieces were slow-drying, would be fired in a few weeks, and be ready for taking home in April.  This workshop would be repeated the next two years.  Making decent-sized and attractive pots definitely requires a bit of practice, we learned.

       During one weekend in July 2009 I put together the initial version of Earliest Western Reports of Various Kinds of Trees by reviewing the pre1800 Books listings and all the historical articles.  Additional articles are now checked for possible updates to the Western Reports.

       In mid-November 2009 I came upon an extremely brief Wikipedia article for Masahiko Kimura.  Realizing that I had a Book of Days listing for him on the 31st, I discovered that my info was barely more fleshed out.  After hunting down a number of additional references, I simultaneously published a longer bio on this outstanding master in both Wikipedia and Book of Days.  I've also added substantial history to the penjing, bonsai, and Hòn Non Bô articles, as well as details to The National Bonsai Foundation and Wu Yee-sun.  And created two articles, bios on Yuji Yoshimura and Bill Valavanis.  Plus substantial additions to the Book of Days project.
       Setting up the various obituaries causes me to feel another thread of the big picture that most others don't/can't experience -- a further sense of connection with this art/hobby and playing the self-chosen role of both bearer of sad tidings and glad memorializer.  Of course, I read each obit that I publish.  But basically I first have to craft each from one to a dozen different sources -- some postings known to other enthusiasts and some not -- eliminating duplicated info, following-up by searching for additional details along certain uncovered lines especially with conflicting data, finding what these individuals did as bonsai enthusiasts and, hopefully, a few other aspects of their lives and families, and also, less commonly, getting more details from family members through e-mails I initiate or which come to me by the family's own seach inquiries.

       March 2010 saw the introduction of Pots and Potters, a grand listing on that often-untold portion of this.  And I significantly added to the number of Conventions, Symposia and Exhibitions we have listed.  A curriculum vitae (CV) of sorts was first published.  Please look at it.

At the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society show in Denver, CO on June 19, 2010, I was able to have a conversation with guest artist Kathy Shaner.  I specifically asked her for updates about the Burlingame or Abraham Lincoln Oak she and her teacher had worked on, which I had recently been researching.

       In late July 2010 the club added an assistant to the webmaster in the person of Eric Zimmet.  His extensive experience in web design and computers allowed us to modernize some elements of the web site, especially the home page and Phoenix club section.  The on-line home page was made to reflect ongoing changes to the proposed one so that the roll-out of the revision would not be quite so jarring to the public.  A more organized presentation of links was put together on the home page and Magical Miniature Landscapes page.  And I was able to split some more of the very long pages, which I had already started to do earlier that year.

       The year 2010 ended with the introduction of the How Many Enthusiasts Are There page.  Through its posting on the Internet Bonsai Club forum, I was then contacted by Oscar Jonker of Belgium of bonsaiempire.com.  From this series of communications (e-mail, IBC, Facebook) I got some updates to the Enthusiasts page and also the opportunity to create a detailed history for the English portion of Oscar's site.  That history is a custom five page version of the 18-page talk I've distilled from the 60+ page Timeline. The following April I let Oscar publish The Synergy of Magical Miniature Landscapes.  It had originally been presented by me as a lecture before the Pikes Peak Bonsai Society in May 2009.  The article version was slightly expanded and with more quotations.

       The first version of the Lineage of Some of Our Teachers was presented as a schematic in late January 2011.  Some additional info and questions by my extremely helpful colleague, William N. Valavanis, led me to also make a more detailed spreadsheet version
       In mid-May I started to gather together what few notes I had regarding the Imperial Bonsai Collection, something which had enticed me for some time.  As there was very little "out there," I figured this would be another little thing I could summarize.  Starting with Warren Hill's "Reflections on Japan" (NBF Bulletin, Winter 2000), I added a few other notes and some Wikipedia links.  At the end of May I published my initial work with notice of it to a few people, including Chris Cochrane.  Chris referred me to Yoshihiro Nakamizu in Japan, who he said had, at one point, an acquaintance who was curator of the Collection.  Mr. Nakamizu introduced me to his assistant, Ms. Harumi Fujino, instead, and Harumi was gracious enough to review my material and send me corrections and comments on it as she could find time to do so.  Meanwhile, Alan Walker was another person to whom I showed my draft and he volunteered to send me scans of the history pages from the 1976 book The Imperial Bonsai of Japan.  I mentioned that it was a resource I would like to see someday, he happened to have a copy, and he very graciously scanned the oversize pages and e-mailed them to me on June 8.  That weekend I worked in much of the material and then published a longer page.  A copy of this I sent to Harumi about the time I received her first review.  A series of e-mails with her and Mr. Nakamizu let me thank them for their extraordinary efforts and time and satisfied them as to my non-commercial, educational intents.  This was an open-ended project -- yes, larger than initially described -- but I was in no hurry.  Over the course of the next four weeks, Harumi sent me sections reviewed.  As we discovered, not all of my researches she could readily confirm, and some of her statistics differed from the ones I had found for historical events.  I combined our notes for what I felt would be the best portrayal of the story.  And about the time I received the scans from Alan, Chris sent me the Googlemap coordinates for the Ōmichi Bonsai Shitate-ba.  I zeroed in on the site and copied the image for the web page.  Re-reading the material, adding a few more hyperlinks and Harumi's comments, massaging the text to get it to flow better, the page slowly developed.  (It grew "thick and rich," as I described it at one point -- I never do "fluff.")  On July 12, I announced the now 2-section page to several bonsai forums and Facebook.  Through the end of the year Harumi sent me additional comments and critiques until she finished the entire article.
       This is an example of my being amazed at how the initial article and early versions of it grow organically (Kokufuten is just another example, as well as Portulacaria, among many others I could list here).  When I added the cropped Google images on the top of the second page of the Imperial Collection article, I was seeing what I had written about grow in the past.  When I added the three bottom pictures on page two, I saw another dimension: not just a static past thing, but still going on.  [These words don't really yet express my feeling about this/these.  I'll revise and improve this description as time goes by.  As I have noted to a few people over the years, this website is the equivalent of my "masterpiece" bonsai, were I a better horticulturalist.]

       In March 2012 I began another project: a comprehensive list of all plants used in bonsai and the related arts.  I started with the previously devised Taxonomic List for Bonsai in Phoenix (first compiled in July 2005), and then seriously expanded it.  (The Phoenix List itself originated from two surveys I did for the club by the early 1990s concerning which trees were used in Phoenix and how well they did as bonsai.  A third survey by the club was conducted in 2009.  The great grandfather of the list was actually this first jotting I made:)

       Now going back to the late 1960s, I had tried several times to create a grand taxonomic listing for all named lifeforms.  This was partly due to my owning several of the Golden Nature Guides.  In pre-word-processing days, I gathered many hand-written notes, eventually segueing to several Access databases with between 7,000 and 8,000 entries.  With the appearance of detailed lists by Phylum, Class, Order, Family, and so forth on the Internet, some of the steam was taken out of my many-year quest.  But the elusive dream remained.  So I specialized in a wide-ranging fashion.  In September 2012 I debuted my bonsai taxonomic listing on the Facebook Group of Lindsay Farr's World of Bonsai.  The listing has grown to over 1,600 species, and it was split up into the current format after the count surpassed 1,000.  Ideally, I would like to have here over 95% of all the plants used as the primary focus for bonsai, penjing, hòn non bô, etc. around the world.  Examples of the less common specimens as dwarf potted trees, in theory, could be linked to a picture, but where do you draw the line at a single truly representative style? -- or what exactly is "less common"?  Copyright issues would probably be the biggest challenge for this universal library of bonsai types -- something I am not yet ready to commit to.

       June 2012 saw an ABS convention in Denver, perhaps an hour from me.  Naturally, I went -- with my older son Kenny Asher (b. 1989), who accompanied me for a number of years to events of the Pikes Peak Bonsai Society.  At the convention I finally got to meet my collaborator William N. Valavanis, who introduced me to Ryan Neil.  I also met Dr. Tom Elias, Dan Robinson, Marc Noelanders, Lindsay and Glenis Bebb, Frank Mihalic, and Iris Cohen.  Harold Sasaki -- who I had previously met through the Pikes Peak Bonsai Society -- was there and we chatted some more about his family.  Someone who contacted me a few months before the convention was Thor Beowolf, an Australian who was working on his bonsai-based PhD thesis.  We made a point to get together in Denver, where Thor interviewed me.  Unfortunately, he wasn't able to finish his thesis before he passed away in early August 2015.  His wife and sons plan to eventually have his material in a memorial research library.

       Oscar Jonker from bonsaiempire.com approached me via e-mail in December 2012 to collaborate with him on answering the question "How Big is Bonsai" in the world.  We discussed some of the parameters of the project, compiled data -- mostly from the phoenixbonsai.com site, and he devised the map.  The first edition was published April 4, 2013 and included some 104 countries and territories.  I compiled data for the United States, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and submitted that to Oscar.  He then compiled similar info for the European nations.  The second edition was published August 7.

       In late February 2016, my thirty years of history research were finally moved to www.magiminiland.org.  This had actually been planned for some time.  (The term "Magiminiland" had been in the material since before mid-May 2011.)  During especially the first two months of the new site, I searched for and contacted webmasters whose sites had links to the history information with a phoenixbonsai.com address to tell them about the new site version.  Additionally, I happened upon a handful of sites that could potentially have new links to this material.  I also announced on Facebook, Internet Bonsai Forum, BonsaiNut, Ausbonsai, and LinkedIn about the changeover.  Bonsai Mary Miller was kind enough to mention it in her blog.  Surprisingly, the Wayback Machine had two early archivings, and in a short time only the magiminiland versions were showing up on Google under bonsai history links -- besides a few random and very mysterious old www.users.qwest.net/~rjbphx/ versions.  (I have no idea why those are still considered active by Google.  Because I don't remember the administrator information to this website of mine that has not been actively used since late 2000, I can't get the folks at the current version of qwest -> U.S. West -> CenturyLink to tell Google to kill those pages.)
       Still, I see that many overseas visitors were going to phoenixbonsai for this info -- but with an early link on the Magical Miniature Landscapes listing on the club's home page, several visitors have found their way quickly over.  Many of the links also were on archival type sites -- issues of magazines or newspaper articles, for instance, which could not be changed over.  So, I was, in effect, competing with my 17-year-old web-self for visitors who were looking for my information.  Plus, we haven't gotten very many emails from people asking about the broken links to these actually moved pages.
       Throughout the month of May 2016 I went through my pages to emphasize something which had always been hiding in plain sight there: multilingual links.  So national/language flags were soon popping up on Big Picture, Forums and Blogs, Magazines, among others, emphasizing additional useful features.  Early on when the pages were transferred from phoenixbonsai its site map was shortened.  In June a newer version of the club homepage was introduced and reference to most of the old history pages vanished.  A few key links have been retained.  I remain on good terms with those desert dwellers and I am still a historian and co-webmaster of that site -- therefore, on the executive board.
       A dedicated site for my material was primarily set up (with a different web host) for the sake of my family years down the road...  Earlier inquiries about dividing up the phoenixbonsai site in the event of my death or incapacitation were never really addressed and so the question about what would happen to my material was not adequately settled.  Attempts at a Last Will and Testament putting forth the division were clumsy, at best.  So, I feel that magiminiland.org is the best of all possible worlds -- ".org" being truer to its nature than ".com."  The color design harkens back to the "classic" [aka "old school," according to one Australian commenter, which description I proudly carry] home page, and the slightly increasing number of links on the home page -- essentially, a site map -- portrays a better make-up of the entire web site.  (Because of the fact that this new site was less than a year old, certain robotic authorities labeled the site as "Dangerous" since it just might all be a ploy by nefarious individuals to get innocents to click on any number of malicious embedded links.  I suppose only time can heal that designation...)

       At the beginning of August I started to compile a modest list of permanent collections of bonsai and penjing around the world.  As usual, it was only because no one else had apparently put together such a global compilation.  With two weeks I had established the current format and proceeded to grow the listing to its present 170 or so locations.

       The Google Translate code was added to the top of a number of key pages around the middle of November after I discovered this fascinating little tool on my Monday through Friday work's home page.

       In January 2017, I finally started adding graphics to this page to better tell the tale.

       And the story continues...

Early Years
Going Public
No Longer
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