(An ongoing compilation of memories, notes and ideas)

© 2005-2017, Robert J. Baran

This page Last Updated: January 20, 2018

Early Years
Going Public
No Longer
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       Some lucky references found in the libraries (not necessarily in chronological order of how I first encountered them):

       Stein, Rolf A. The World in Miniature: Container Gardens and Dwellings in Far Eastern Religious Thought (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; 1990), borrowed twice since about May 1991 and extensively photocopied for notes on much of the history, not the least being details for the Fei Jiang-fang story.  This led me to the citation of

       McClure, F.A.  "Methods and Materials of Chinese Table Plant Culture," Lingnan Science Journal (Canton: Lingnan University), Vol 12, Supplement, pp. 119-164.  Issued May 22, 1933, and also

       Bretschneider, Emil M.D.   Botanicon sinicum (as Article III in "Journal of the North-China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society," 1881, New Series Vol. XVI, Part I, Shanghai, 1882, and his History of European Botanical Discoveries in China (Leipzig: Zentral-Antiquariat; 1981, reprint of the original 1898 edition) for additional info on Abel, Livingstone, and Fortune.  The last two I'd already read in their original state.  This work also supplemented

       Sirén, Osvald  Gardens of China (NY: The Ronald Press Company; 1949) and

       Gothein, Marie Luise  A History of Garden Art (reprinted by Hacker Art Books, New York, 1966.  First published in English, 1928) for Cibot.

       Hu, Yunhua Chinese Penjing, Miniature Trees and Landscapes (Portland, OR: Timber Press; ©1987 Wan Li Books Co., Ltd., Hong Kong), much of the initial Chinese Schools & Styles was derived from this comprehensive work;

       Then, a footnote on pp. 188-189 in Conrad Totman's Early Modern Japan (Berkley & LA: University of California Press; 1993) led to a detailed bio of Chu Shun-Shui by Julia Ching  "The Practical Learning of Chu Shun-shui (1600-1682)," in Principle and Practicality, Essays in Neo-Confucianism and Practical Learning, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom (NY: Columbia University Press; 1979), pp. 189-229, which resulted in a Chu Shunshui bio here.

       Erickson, Susan N.  "Boshanlu--Mountain Censers of the Western Han Period: A Typological and Iconological Analysis," The Archives of Asian Art 45 (Dec, 1992), pp. 6-28, which was adapted from her dissertation.  This reference was found while "surfing the Web" for additional info on these mountain incense-burners which are what I consider the equivalent of great-great-great grand-uncles of bonsai.

       Laufer, Berthold  Chinese Pottery of the Han Dynasty (Leiden: E.J. Brill, Ltd., 1909; 1962 reprint by Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc.), gotten because of a footnote in Erickson, this pioneering study has much additional early history of boshanlu, which resulted in that section on the website being rewritten.  This was the first section seriously revised -- as opposed to just added to -- because of new research.

       Cooper, Michael, S.J. (ed.) They Came to Japan, An Anthology of European Reports on Japan, 1543-1640 (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press; 1965), as a reference in a biography of Will Adams -- the subject of the mini-series "Shogun" (which I can proudly say I watched during its original airing in the Fall of 1980 -- along with Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" -- THAT was a wonderful season on TV) -- I picked up at the library in March 2005 to "cleanse my mental palate" after several months of research into the late 19th/early 20th century.  Much useful info to flesh out a very early Western mention.  Cooper's book is an intense study of Japan in the title's time period.

       A copy of The Huntington Botanical Gardens' "Plant Trivia TimeLine" on the Internet, reviewed two years after I printed a copy for my files (05/01/01), yielded a 1506 reference to Chinese potted landscapes per Clunas' 1996 work, The Fruitful Site.  Obtaining a copy of Clunas through InterLibrary Loan via the Burbank Street branch of the Mohave County Library yielded much new information for "Pre-1800 Books."  ILL via Kingman was employed from May 2002-June 2005.

       Wood, Francis Did Marco Polo go to China? (Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 1996. First American edition), was picked up off the library shelf then in Fountain, Colorado (just south of Colorado Springs, where my family moved to at the end of June 2005) and skimmed.  It had some additional info I could use for the NOT found in Marco Polo page, and it yielded a new Pre-1800 Book mention.  The details were then ILL-ordered through the Security [Colorado] Public Library and produced Jacques Gernet's Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion 1250-1276 (NY: The Macmillan Company; 1962.  Translated by H. M. Wright).  (I still remember the week-end afternoon I was sitting downstairs in the laundry room of the split-level house we were renting in Fountain when I first read the references to dwarf evergreens as décor in restaurants in Hangzhou c.1275...)  From the references in that book I then ordered Christopher Dawson (ed.) The Mongol Mission (NY: Sheed and Ward, 1955).  No bonsai references, but it does detail some pre-Polo and contemporary Western exposures to the East.

       The Charles R. Long article "An Informal History of Bonsai" (Arnoldia, Jamaica Plain, MA: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, 1971, (31):261-273), was gotten in photocopy throughInterLibrary Loan on Nov. 15, 2000.  Where I heard about this article originally I do not remember.  References in this article led me to the material on Marie Stopes and Francis Hawks.  There are a few mentions in Long's article of Chinese portrayals that I am still following up on.

Other particularly useful books of the few hundred I've studied were
       Bartlett, Harley Harris and Hide Shohara  Japanese Botany During the Period of Wood-Block Printing (Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop; 1961);
       Engel, David H.  Creating a Chinese Garden (London: Croom Helm Ltd. and Portland, OR: Timber Press; 1986);
       Goldstein, Jonathan  Philadelphia and the China Trade, 1682-1846 (University Park and London: The Pennsylvania University Press; 1978);
       Keene, Donald  No, The Classical Theater of Japan (Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd.; 1966);
       Kikuchi, Sadao  A Treasury of Japanese Wood Block Prints, Ukiyo-e (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.; Translation © 1969 by Tokyo International Publishers, © 1963 Kawadeshobo, Tokyo);
       Lach, Donald F.  Asia in the Making of Europe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; 1965. Two Volumes, each consisting of two Books);
       Morris, Edwin T.  The Gardens of China: History, Art, and Meanings (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons; 1983);
       Nienhauser, William H., Jr. (ed.)  The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press; 1986);
       Richardson, S.D.  Forestry in Communist China (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins Press; 1966);
       Vertrees, J.D.  Japan Maples, Momiji and Kaede (Portland, OR: Timber Press; 1978, 1987. Second Edition);
       Yi, O-nyoung  Smaller Is Better, Japan's Mastery of the Miniature (Chijimi shikoo no Nihonjin) (Tokyo: Kodansha International, Ltd.; 1982.  First English edition 1984).

        While looking for portrayals of bonsai, I have also skimmed untold scores of books on China, Japan, Oriental gardening, art, and religion which ended up not having any useful graphics -- or, to a lesser extent, other material.  The number of works with copies of paintings or scrolls which include bonsai/penjing are relatively few, and not always obvious by the book's title or subject.


       Interviews RJB conducted with Leroy Fujii, Joan McCarter, "Bud" Jacobson, Elsie Andrade, Jim Claycomb, Fred Carpenter, and other members of the Phoenix Bonsai Cub regarding bonsai in the west during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

       Personal e-mails to RJB
       from Peter Aradi of Tulsa, OK, on Oct. 22, 1999 connected me with http://webcat.nacsis.ac.jp/webcat_eng.html and I was able to get two hundred titles of books in early December.  The following spring and summer George and Nobuyo Cole in the Phoenix Bonsai Society were able to provide me with translations of most of the citations which were then entered in Books.

       from John Ruger of Brookhaven, PA mentioning Chinese art and penjing, after I initially answered him, led me to dig up from my old notes "1,000 questions" unanswered in the "Big History."  These were then incorporated and formed the initial skeleton of "Some of What We Don't Know About the History of Magical Miniature Landscape".  Other chapter-end questions from the book notes were also interwoven.

       from Karin Albert, Max Braverman, Chris Cochrane, Craig Coussins, Dr. John Creech, Navasona Krishnan, Felix Laughlin, Gunter Lind, Yukio Murata, Walter Pall, Solita Rosade, Jerry Stowell, William N. Valavanis (whose ongoing occasional discoveries are shared with me and allow me to update specifically the Kokufuten pages), Tom Zane, and others with whom I electronically converse(d) and by whom I had questions answered.

      I have been kept informed about happenings in the world of bonsai, in part, through the Internet Bonsai Club postings and gallery, BonsaiTalk gallery, the Art of Bonsai site, my very numerous Facebook "friends" (for whom I act as a kind of tourguide to the worlds of magical miniature landscapes by sharing certain postings by some which strike me as unique, or otherwise "broader-ranging" than most bonsai pics), and Lindsay Farr's World of Bonsai videos.  Also, I have tried to contact the webmasters of all sites that have a link to us which is erroneous/old style.  This has not always been possible, so some links out there in cyberspace only tell an older/partial story here.  This is complicated further when the links are copies of other old links.  But, little by little, I am doing my best to update everyone.


      Regarding the most useful creative moments: particularly beneficial have been showering, shaving, walking the dogs, and/or mind-neutral paperworking times for thoughts and inspirations about this whole body of material over the past thirty-one years.  The various and sundry notes so built up -- in file cabinet drawers, large plastic tote tubs, on scraps of paper, and electronic files -- hopefully will be incorporated into this web site during my lifetime.


       Partial "regrets": Not having the time to follow up on all citations.  Putting together connections but not having the time or resources to follow up on them.  Not making connections soon enough to then be able to use certain reference books to get more details on.  We learn...



       And so, these website pages can be divided into the following somewhat arbitrary types (the terms used here were devised in May 2005):
Index, a listing of links to other pages on this site and/or outside ( index, Travellers, Paintings, Stamps, Newsletters );
Speculation, the most wonderfully creative/re-creative ( DontKnow, Futures ) ;
Mined, pulling together in a new manner of info from other pages ( BoldlyGrow, Japanese Styles, Some of the Portrayals, Incomplete Info, Magazines, Origins of Some of the Terms, Lineage of Some of Our Teachers, All the Plants for Bonsai );
I&M, both a listing and a pulling together ( BigPicture, Timeline, Books, Days, pre1945Biblio, Expositions, A Chronology of Dwarf Potted Trees in England, A Chronology of Dwarf Potted Trees in France, Earliest Western Reports of Various Kinds of Trees/Shrubs as Dwarfed Potted Trees, About Pots and Potters );
Data, more or less straight-forward information (most other pages).



       This history would have been compiled differently if RJB
       -- had been aware of the Bonsai Clubs International convention in Cleveland, Ohio in May 1971, one month before my family moved from there to Phoenix, Arizona;
       -- family had not moved to Phoenix but I had stayed in the Cleveland area and become involved in bonsai through that local club which was quite prominent at the time, studying under Keith Scott along with Dale Cochoy;
       -- had actually met John Naka at the Desert Botanical Garden in late October 1971 when my uncle and I happened upon the last day there of the workshop/show John had conducted for the Phoenix Bonsai Society;
       -- had been aware of the Golden State Bonsai Federation convention in Long Beach, CA aboard the Queen Mary in November 1983, one month before I visited there;
       -- had been a better grower and didn't have so much free time to think about what he was doing because 1) of not investing in more large material (although in that case the Portulacaria monograph then would not have been compiled) and 2) of having losses, in part, due to my multiple household moves primarily around the Phoenix area (in themselves partly due to multiple jobs while looking for my career niche.  More stability might have meant more money, might have meant more trees and workshops and convention attendances and meeting my colleagues face-to-face, overseas travel, as well as other non-bonsai diversions, and less mental time to focus on this history.);
       -- had come upon D. Koreshoff's book six or more months earlier, before I discovered things she didn't cover;
       -- had not become involved with the Phoenix Bonsai Society and 1) its close ties to John Naka or 2) its collection of magazine back issues and library donations by former members;
       -- had not been the Phoenix Bonsai Society's initial webmaster, with virtually total access to the contents around the clock for updating and additions;
       -- had not made the history of bonsai and related arts so much a quest that it has been in my thoughts nearly every day since spring of 1986 and thus could be assembled from the study of seemingly unrelated disciplines, often piecing together minor excerpts originally seen in passing;
       -- had jumped at the chance of being the Amercian Bonsai Society Journal editor in 1995 when previous editor Arch Hawkins died unexpectedly and Elsie Andrade, an ABS director who had helped start the Phoenix Bonsai Society, asked me if I would be interested in the position (despite my lack of experience with advanced publishing programs/software);
       -- had been invited to do a presentation on the history of bonsai at the ABS convention in 2012, as two years earlier it was suggested to me as a possibility by the hosting Denver club considering its agenda;
       -- had seriously tried to include a grand encyclopedia of biographies of masters and teachers, glossary, and listing of clubs.  (The middle has more or less been picked up by the Internet Bonsai Club's Japanese Terms listing [unfortunately no longer locatable] and Japanese terms dictionary, while the latter I deferred to in some of the Book of Days entries, the BCI Teacher's Registry, and what is now the current LINKS incarnation of what originally was Craig J. Hunt's link page.  While not complete or updated, this last one has the foundation to be the grand listing.  Perhaps our recent Lineage of Some of Our Teachers is a partial stab at a Who's Who...)

       Along the lines of that final point, I have purposely not [yet?] tried to include any comprehensive listing of specialty audio and video presentations (16 or 35 mm, VHS, DVD, audiotape, etc.) of bonsai-related educational material, such as I did with the books and magazines.  Perhaps in the future, above and beyond this listing of teachers and collections...

No regrets -- just an indication of the choices we make and opportunities which seem to have been available.


       Being approached by various persons for assistance because I am seen as a "bonsai encyclopedia" has slightly altered how I see myself over the years.  In the big scope of this art, there is this niche I have carved out for myself because I followed my innate talents of quick skimming "power research" and remembering various details from numerous sources which I could piece together.  No one else apparently had taken in that range of material and commented upon it like I've been able to.  A service, a point of view which is, at times, in demand or requested and which I can supply.

       On the other hand, being approached by a smaller number of persons to possibly work on some forms of joint projects of a historical nature.  I have found my plate constantly overflowing with just my notes and have not been able to generally co-author.  But I will never say never...  (There are at least two current conversational openings which exist which have yet to come to fruition).

       This web site is a partial tapestry woven out of my older and newer notes.  Several patterns hinted at but not adequately even outlined; significances and implications sometimes overlooked; possibly meaningful tangents not incorporated yet.  Certain sources, such as complete catalogs of the major periodicals, incompletely reviewed.  At times, thinking that the scope of this all is too broad [for one person] to do justice to.  Seeing how much I can do just to prove that it can't all be done?  And with my Facebook contacts I am even more aware that I do not have the time or energy to adequately document/archive the global world of MML.  More and more I am learning that there is so much more that I don't know about all of this.  And that any grandly naïve goal of being the ultimate authority on bonsai history is daily slipping away -- despite what well-intentioned associates may feel.

       The spirit of serendipity occasionally appearing in what start out as random Internet searches, which then reveal wonderfilled tidbits which I can piece into the larger picture.  Unsolicited e-mails providing new info.  Passages in indirect books and articles which lead to new avenues -- ever-reading with an eye to finding bits of early developmental keys in unsuspected areas.  And the opportunity to make some other researchers more widely known by incorporating their discoveries into this larger framework.  The many loose threads to this tapestry, much material not yet woven in or adequately explored...

       And the inevitable coming across in verbal interviews and a few e-mails of hints, allegations, and evidence from reliable sources of the "dark side" of some of the teachers and artists and/or their families.  Yes, these were/are all very human individuals, "gods with feet of clay," not necessarily 24/7 always the saintly, educational and encouraging artisans portrayed, especially in the brief passages within this web site.  None of the lives herein have been white-washed or otherwise "cleaned-up."  It was decided early on that it wasn't our responsibility to include all the warts in these quick portrayals attempting to catch a glimpse of the spirit of the times.  Future commentators can go there as they describe, for example, larger patterns, the behind-the-scenes politics and personalities of organizational formation, and critiques of colleagues' innovations.  There is so much of the basic groundwork which we need to lay out first.  Material from the stated sources was faithfully employed.  A very few times our correspondants did include a little information on an "F.Y.I.-only" basis for our edification -- none of that would have significantly altered the picture presented herein.  (This is an internal editorial process to some degree in every form of historical research -- genealogical, corporate, horticultural -- I've been involved in.)


       And, yes, a feature of this particular website which most visitors will quickly discover is the presence of a large number of hyperlinks both internal and external.  This history -- and strictly speaking, any history -- is not a brief linear progression, nor is it self-complete.  These gardening arts I've labelled as Magical Miniature Landscapes have touched and been touched by many persons.  (Looking at my book notes I see an early but simpler version of the internal links between the various parts, chapters, and segments.)


       One complaint I [used to] have with the World Wide Web was the large number of directories -- bonsai and health-related being two topics I know too well are offenders, though I'm sure all subjects have their share -- that were just endless loops of links to their own and other URLs without providing very much useful information.  Not all directories were like this, but there were enough of these space wasters.  Same thing with the so-called "link farms" (which have largely faded away by this time).  IMHO.



       An "Odds & Ends" trivia page, something like an early blog where I could list recent specialized magazine articles of interest, etc.  From summer-fall of 1999.



       What more would I like to add to this website?  Well, how about:
       Info and dates for all the persons and things listed for the Bonsai Book of Days, including the names and events I have on the wish list there;
       Photographs for all of the mentioned persons;
       Good quality graphics (color if possible) for all the paintings and sample magazines listed (and reviewing the legendary 12-vol. Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections by Kodansha International Ltd.);
       Details on all unidentified paintings;
       Other major international conventions, including gatherings I already have partials on, along with links to pictures from them on other websites;
       Details for the specific nations set aside for such information in the "When Did Bonsai Come to the Various Countries and Territories" listings;
       Complete listing of books and translations, including titles I already have partials on (and access to a copy in English of Ryoji Iwasa's Bonsai Bunka-shi (Tokyo: Yasaka Shobo; 1976));
       Complete listing of pre-1950 books, especially pre-1800 works;
       Complete listing of Boldly Grow portrayals, including sightings I already have partials on;
       Video and/or audio clips linked to Boldly Grow portrayals;
       Complete listing of In Other Words literature, including titles I already have partials on;
       Complete listing of pre-WWII magazine and periodical articles, including those published in Europe (assorted languages, but especially the Gardener's Chronicle, 1841 through at least 1900 -- which I found has been put online as of late 2012.  I have thus linked what I could in the following citations.  Hopefully at some point I will make time to do these up as separate pages on this website).  In particular, these articles mentioned in sundry other sources, rarely noted:
              * W.I.  "Chinese Method of Dwarfing Trees," Gardener's Chronicle, London, 21 November 1846, 6: 771-772;
              * Veitch  "Contorted Coniferous Trees," Gardener's Chronicle, London, 4 July 1896, pg. 9 with illustration (plus Yokohama Nursery Co. ad on pg. 5);
              * The Yokohama Nursery  "How the Japanese grow the dwarfed trees in jardinieres," Gardener's Chronicle, London, December 23, 1899, t.II, p. 466;
              * Vallot, J  "Les arbres nains du Japon à l'Exposition du Trocadéru," (Journ. d'hort., t. XI, 1889);
              * Bing, S.  Arbres nains du Japon  Catalogue d’une collection d'arbres nains du Japon, Paris 1902.  Une brochure in-12 de IX + 46 p. et 10 planches.;
              * Tissandier, Albert  "Jardins Chinois et Japonais," La Nature, 1902, 30: 86-90;
              * Delannoy, L.   "Les arbres nains japonais,"  Journ. d. 1. Soc. Reg. d'Hort. du Nord de la France, 1903, pp. 46-51.
              *  Gardener's Chronicle, London, 1845, pg. 547? (issue only goes to page 420);
              *  Gardener's Chronicle, London, October 19, 1872, pg. 1386;
              *  Gardener's Chronicle, London, January 25, 1889 ("The Dwarf Trees of Japan"?) (a review of the January 26 issue did not reveal this article or any other mention);
              *  Gardener's Chronicle, London, June 29, 1899 (a review of the June 24 issue did not reveal any mention);
              *  Gardener's Chronicle, London, March 31, 1900, pg. 202 ("Japanese Arboriculture");
              *  Gardener's Chronicle, London, January 30, 1904, pg. i 74 has a passing reference in the middle column;
              *  Journal of Horticulture, London, August 16, 1864, VII, pg. 130 (passing reference towards bottom of first column);
              *  Florist's Journal, London, 1840, pp. 25-26;
              *  The Floricultural Cabinet, London, 1848, XVI, pg. 308;
              *  Quarterly Review, London, 1851, LXXXIX, pp. 30-31;
              *  Journal Horticole et de Viticulture de Suisse, 1909, pp. ?
              *  Sakamoto, Kiyosh  "Bonsai: Culture of Dwarfed Trees in Japan," Gardeners' Chronicle of America, January 1922, pp. 18-19;
              *  Tribune Horticole, 1932, pp. ?
              *  Coe, E.F. "Keeping Japanese picture-plants alive," Garden Magazine, 1923, July, 37:331-332;
              *  Matsuki, Bunkio "Japanese potted trees (Hachinoki)," Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record, 1931, 20(6): 279-289.
              *  The Bonsai Issue of the Journal of the California Horticultural Society, XXI #2, April 1960.
       Complete listing of magazines and online newsletters, including periodicals I already have partials on;
       More questions and answers for Some of What We Don't Know and the Anomalies;
       More graphic, textual, and translated quote details about India's long yet little-known-especially-in-the-West experience with magical miniature landscapes;
       Links to and translations of early articles found in non-English or French periodicals, especially in the second half of the 19th and throughout the 20th century;
       More interviews in print, audio and video in many languages with our teachers and artists;
       Biographies and other Book of Days listings for all artists I currently have birthdates for;
       Toxicities of other plants used as bonsai, the rest of the German lists and the list from Florida in my notes;
       Additional items currently existing but not yet covered here;
       Listings for things not yet existing;
       And maybe becoming a bit of a forum, something which has informally happened a few times by direct contact and by referring others to stop by and share their experiences over the years with this wonderfilled art/interest.

       To discuss what we already have here, discover new connections and meanings, explore new sources of information, link with some external sites to become more symbiotic about certain specific areas of this, see a few more enthusiasts become interested in this seemingly less-interesting facet of the art, raise more questions about what we know and don't know, and learn a bit further about ourselves and the world.


       More thoughts and facts about the development of this website to be added here...

       See also this Ideal Bonsai History/Research Center Proposal.

Early Years
Going Public
No Longer
Wish List

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