(bonsai, bonseki, bonkei, saikei, penjing, pentsai, suiseki)

1800 - 1849
(Chronological order)

Language Prefix:
" JA "   Japanese
" ZH "   Chinese

JA     Sumie, Buzen and Aizan Sumie   Senkeiban Zushiki: naniwa shomeika shuzu ; Kyoto; 1808.  Edited by the son of the famous painter and bonsai artist, Sumie Michihiro (Buzen) (1734-1806), to commemorate the elder's work.  An illustrated two-volume guide for bonsai growers.  Seven double pages and a translation of the Preface can be seen in this blog article.  USDA 1

JA      Iwasaki Tsunemasa (aka Iwasaki Kan'en, 1786-1842)   Sōmoku Sodate-gusa (Growing Trees and Plants / Cultivation and care of plants); 1818.  Two volumes.  This general work on horticulture, which mentions bonsai, describes and illustrates various methods of plant cultivation and care.  The illustrations in part I depict said methods: two types of grafting, taking cuttings, propagation under cover, etc.  Also shows plant pests such as caterpillars and their eggs, and beetles.  The black-and-white illustrations are enhanced with a little grey colour.  Iwasaki was active in Edo (modern Tokyo), then the center of botanical and zoological studies in Japan, and served as superintendent of a botanical garden belonging to the shōgun.  His other large work, the extensive and fully illustrated Honzō zufu, was his crowning glory. 2

JA      Kinta (ed.)   Sōmoku Kihin Kagami ( A Mirror of Rare Trees ); 1827.  Three volumes.  Assisted by Genzo, a florist.  Shows the taste of the age for hundreds of rare and unusual varieties.  Includes illustrations of bonsai, none of which could be identified as surviving contemporary trees. 3

JA      Taisho, Shokin   (Reknowned Plant Cultivators); 1827.  Includes a fine collection of bonsai drawings. 4

JA      Mizuno Chukyo (aka Mizuno Issai)   Sōmoku Kinyoshu ( A Colorful Collection of Trees and Plants / Collection of tree leaves ); 1829.  Six volumes plus Appendix.  Sketches by Oka Umpo and Sekine Untei, mostly showing a wide variety of variegated leaves.  Some scholars consider this to be the best sort ever published in Japan.  Includes the basic criteria, in detail and with two illustrations, for the ideal form of the classical pine bonsai, in Vol. 7.  The "classic" pine bonsai is a tree in which neither the trunk of the tree, the roots, nor the balance of the right and left branches has any front or back, and which has no taboo branches from whichever side it is viewed...  From base to top, it should show no cut-off branches; it should be free of all faults such as bent branches or uneven curves in the trunk.  And it should present convincingly the appearance of an aged pine, with no sign of artifice remaining, from every viewpoint.  So strict were the formal criteria for a good classical pine bonsai that a matsu-zukuri (pine-grower; i.e., a bonsai expert; also known as a matsushi, "pine expert") was lucky if he achieved a single good one in his lifetime; almost always, the trunk was bent, the branches were in the wrong places, or there was some other fault  He could grow thousands of trees without one that fulfilled all the requirements.  A tree that was "really successful as a pine" was not produced more than once in a pine-grower's lifetime, and good specimens were exceedingly rare.  The author had the artists sketch plants repeatedly from life until they were skilled in showing the characteristics that were to be emphasized.  Some of the figures are the same as in Somoku Kihin Kagami. 5

JA                           Sōmoku Ikushu ; 1829.  A nearly complete work on gardening.  Subjects covered in this document include questions of soil quality, watering, feeding of plants, propagation, transplanting, treating insects and disease and notices of seasonal chores.  In the section on watering, the author discusses the importance of drainage holes in containers.  The discussion moves on to say that unglazed bisque-fired pots are the best for plants, as the soil will dry out faster and thus prevent root rot. 6

JA      Choseisha, Aruji (aka Choseisha Shujin)   Kinsei jufu betsuroku ( Album of Long Lived Plants ); 1833.  Possibly the first catalog of bonsai.  Illustrations and explanations as to propagation and the tools necessary.  Bright containers of various shapes and depths are shown in this three volume work. 7

JA      Abe Rekisai Yoshito (1805-1870)   Sōmoku Sodate-gusa, Jo (Growing Trees and Plants / Cultivation and care of plants, second series); 1837.  Four volumes.  Revised second edition.  A supplement to the one by Iwasaki Tsunemasa with similar title, this work also includes a chapter on the beginnings of the Imperial gardens.  Gives more detailed advise with illustrations on the growing of bonsai in Vol. 38
JA       Iwasaki Kan'en (1786-1842)   Sōmoku-ka Taigai Fu ; c.1842.  States that during Tempo era (1830-1844), price of an "instant" bonsai was a mere 150 to 300 mon, while a "large pine, in the present owner's possession for several years, on which a good deal of trouble has been lavished" cost as much as ten ryo, approximately 65,000 mon.  (The mon would be replaced by the yen after 1870.) 9

JA       Kimura, Tōsen and Yoshishige Utagawa   Tōkaidō gojusantsugi hachiyama zue (Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Highway Represented as Mountains in a Bowl) ; Shioya Yashichi ; May 1848.  24.8 x 17.2 cm.  Two volumes: One contains views #1 - 28; Two has views #29-53.  A traditional artistic theme done here using magical miniature landscapes.  See also Note 22 sample views here. 10


  Senkeiban Zushiki, 1808 [1, Liang]

Senkeiban Zushiki, 1808 [1, Lesniewicz]

Senkeiban Zushiki Joukan cover, 1842
  Senkeiban Zushiki Joukan, 1842 [1]

Senkeiban Zushiki Joukan cover, 1842 [1]

Senkeiban Zushiki, 1822 [1]

  Somoku Kihin Kagami, 1827 [3]

Somoku Kihin Kagami, 1827 [3]

Somoku Kinyoshu, 1829 [5]

Somoku Kinyoshu, 1829 [5]

Kinseiju-fu, 1833 [7]
Somoku Sodate-gusa, 1837 [8]

Tōkaidō gojusantsugi hachiyama zue, 1848 [10]


     Young, Dorothy  Bonsai, The Art and Technique (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.; 1985), pg. 7, gives the date as 1822, b&w pictures courtesy of Kyuzo Murata; cf. Lesniewicz, Paul  Bonsai: The Complete Guide to Art & Technique (Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press; 1984), pg. 13, who shows a sepia photo (attributed to Dr. Horace Clay of Hawaii), with the caption "1808, a pun-ching by Sumie Buzen."  What is shown is a detailed mountain landscape, in a round or oval light-colored pot with dark geometric patterns on the sides.  The groundcover goes up the sides of the rocks, and there are at least two thin taller trees, possibly pines.  A tiny, squat, open-walled hut with a pyramidal roof on four supports is in a flat clearing in this landscape.  Two tiny seated figures to the left are gazing out over the edge of this world.  This picture is very similar to the first one from the son's book mentioned above; Lesniewicz,Paul  Bonsai in Your Home (NY: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.; 1994), pg. 59 has color reverse print and full depiction of landscape that is shown in Complete Guide ; Stein, Rolf A.  The World in Miniature (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press; 1990), pg. 34, has another miniature landscape of similar style, also dated 1808.  And, the one copy listed in the Japanese university library holdings database ( ) is dated 1808; per the Library of Congress Online Catalog,, an edition from possibly Osaka is dated not before 1826, LCC #98847211.  GoogleBooks also lists only an 1826 edition published by Imazuya Tatsusaburō.  A 1925 edition out of Kyoto is LCC #96470979.  Except for the LOC citations, all the other above sources give only the first word of the title.  A b&w of the print in Lesniewicz is also in Covello, Vincent T. and Yuji Yoshimura   The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation, Suiseki and Its Use with Bonsai (Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle; 1996, 1984), pg. 104.
      A copy of an 1842 27-page work, Senkeiban Zushiki Joukan Vol. 1 by the artist Shofuzan Houzou, was on e-Bay up to the end of Sept. 2007.  The winning bid was US$910.   For educational comparison, above we have an image from the 1842 work.
      An 1822 edition was offered for sale to the Phoenix club 3 Mar 2011 by with these details describing it: Senkeiban zushiki (Pictures and methods of placing miniature landscapes on dishes), edited by Takashi Katsutada, 26 x 18.4 cm, 24 different gardens illustrated on 30 illustrated pp. with 10 pp. text (4 introduction and 6 colophon).  Woodblock with attractive hand-colored accents.  In posting per Mitchell on 29 Jul 2011, volume one has been located and posted at, visible when you sign up for a free membership in the Australian Bonsai Forum.  Volume 2 was said to follow, but has not shown up yet.  When it does, it will be linked here also.  The blog article -- stating the work is from 1826 -- was brought to RJB's attention courtesy of the November 15, 2016 issue of Mary Miller's excellent newsletter, Bonsai Banter.

2      Bartlett, Harley Harris and Hide Shohara   Japanese Botany During the Period of Wood-Block Printing (Los Angeles: Dawson's Book Shop; 1961.  Reprinted from ASA GRAY BULLETIN, N.S. 3: 289-561, Spring 1961), pg. 252; Newsom, Samuel   Japanese Garden Construction (Tokyo: Domoto, Kumagawa and Perkins, 1939.  1988 reprint by Apollo Book, Poughkeepsie, NY), pg. 281, lists this as an 1815 garden book by Abe Rekisai; Liang, Amy  The Living Art of Bonsai (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.; 1992), pg. 107 states that "In Abe Kijin's (1821) Propagating Plants and Trees, bonsai is mentioned along with notes explaining the Japanese pronunciation 'hachiue,' which means potted plant."; per the Library of Congress Online Catalog,, the Kyoto publisher was Katsumura Jiemon, while the Edo one was Yamashiroya Sahee in Bunka 15 (1818), LCC #98847230.  "IWASS1,", which also offers a copy of the manuscript for GBP 1,150.00 (approx. US $1,875) as of 30 Jul 2011; "Iwasaki Tsunemasa," Spencer Research Library,

3      Bartlett, pg. 172, has a b&w photo of a page from, and translates the title as Collection of unusual plants [with drawings and writings by many experts], giving the publication data as Edo, Bunsei 10 (1827); Yashiroda, Kan "The Amateur Bonsai Fancier" in Yashiroda Handbook on Dwarf Potted Trees (NY: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1953, 1959), has b&w photo on pg 83 and states on pg. 82 that "The accompanying photograph of winter daphne ( D. odora ) is reproduced from a book published in 1827; it shows a crested branch which was rooted as a cutting and perpetuated [sic] and trained as a bonsai."; Titley, Norah and Frances Wood  Oriental Gardens, An Illustrated History (San Francisco: Chronicle Books; 1991), pg. 116 Fig. " 109 Pot plants (three varieties of Nandina domestica by Untei)... hand-coloured woodblock... "; Del Tredici, Peter  Early American Bonsai (Jamaica, MA: Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University; 1989), pp. 14-15 and 22, states the author as Kintaro; cf. Wichmann, Siegfried Japonisme: the influence on Western art in the 19th and 20th centuries (New York: Park Lane; 1980.  English translation, 1981), pp. 330-331: "There are indications that the design studio of the Daum Workshop in Paris [c.late 1880's] had access to the work So-moku Ki-hin Kaga-mi, published by printers and botanists in Kyoto in 1828.  Individual parts -- mostly boughs -- are copied exactly on the ornamental vases of the brothers Daum.  Many Japanese botanical books, in fact, were used in Europe as reference materials for Japan inspired artwork, crafts and designs."  We are not sure if this Japanese site has any value here: .&

4      Liang, pg. 107.

5      Naka, John and Richard K. Ota and Kenko Rokkaku   Bonsai Techniques for Satsuki (Ota Bonsai Nursery; 1979), pg. 32, lists the author as Mizuno Tadaki; Tsumura, Toichi, M.F.S. "Dwarf Trees," Japan Society: Transactions (Vol. VI, Part 1, pp. 2-15), pg. 11 includes quote about; Nippon Bonsai Association  Classic Bonsai of Japan (Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International; 1989), pp. 150-152 have three b&w photos of pages and pine-grower quote from.  First photo [above] from pg. 151, described as "A picture of a 'classical pine bonsai'" and second photo [above], same page, as "An explanation...of kannuki-eda,kuruma-eda, and other 'taboo' branch formations."; Bartlett, pp. 172-173, with b&w photo of page from on pg. 174, Fig. 47.

6      "Notes on Antique Chinese Bonsai Pots" by Ikune Sawada, Bonsai Magazine, BCI, September/October 1988, Vol. XXVII, No. 5, pg. 25; Bonsai Magazine, BCI, Vol. XXXII, No. 3, May/June 1993, pg. 23, mentions an 1818 gardening guide by Kanen Iwasaki, Somoku-Ikushu: but see author of work with Note 2 (above).  Per Journal of Botany, British and Foreign, 1887, Vol. 25, pg. 226: "Iwasaki Tsunemasa, of Yedo, was a superintendent of a botanic garden belonging to Shogun, and also the author of 'Somoku Ikushu,' published in two volumes about 1817."

7      Yashiroda, Kan Bonsai, Japanese Miniature Trees (Newton, MA: C.T. Branford Co./London: Faber and Faber; 1960), pp. 21-22, which has no author specified and the date as 1830; Koreshoff, Deborah R.  Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy (Brisbane, Australia: Boolarong Publications; 1984), pg. 8, no author and 1830; Nippon Bonsai Association  Classic Bonsai of Japan, pp. 149-150, has two b&w photos of pages from, and lists the publication date as 1833; Ishiyama, Nonkey T. "Historical Notes on Japanese Bonsai," Bonsai Journal, ABS, Vol. 5, No. 3, Fall 1971, pp. 43- 44 has b&w [shown above] on latter page captioned "Illustrations [sic] from a book of Japanese potted plants dated 1830. From the collection of N.T. Ishiyama"; cf. Shufunotomo, Editors of The Essentials of Bonsai (Portland, OR: Timber Press; 1982), pg. 9, has date of 1803; and Newsom, pg. 281, has "Kinsei Zu-fu by Choseisha, an 1832 garden book"; per personal e-mail dated Jan. 23, 2000 to RJB from John Romano (who owns a copy of the work) the author, title, date and size are as listed above; per the Library of Congress Online Catalog,, the Kyoto publisher was Katsumura Jiemon, while the Edo one was Suharaya Sasuke, LCC #98847182.  Only the LOC citation lists the third word in the title. 

8       Bartlett, pg. 253, having the author's name as "Abe Yoshito," with b&w of the right-hand plate of the sample pages shown above on pg. 254 as Fig. 101; Nippon Bonsai Association  Classic Bonsai of Japan, b&w on pg. 149; Yashiroda, Kan "The Amateur Bonsai Fancier," has b&w photo on pg. 83 also of the right hand plate from above and states on pg. 82 that "The second photograph is reproduced from a book published in 1837.  The first glance shows merely a completed bonsai; but closer inspection reveals that on each branch of the thread-form Sawara cypress ( Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera ) one to three scions of Hiba arbor-vitae, or false arbor-vitae ( Thujopsis dolabrata ), have been grafted.  When the graft unions are completed, all the branches of the Sawara cypress are to be cut off and the whole tree converted into Hiba arbor-vitae.
       "These are not childish attempts or vague ideas but are the products of long years of an age of military ascendency, when every profession was hereditary -- the time called the Tokogawa Era...";
       per the Library of Congress Online Catalog,, the Edo publisher was Suharaya Mohe, LCC #98847832; the three part author's name is per "IWASS1,"

9       Nippon Bonsai Association  Classic Bonsai of Japan, pg. 150.  See also No. 2 work above.

10     Yoshishige -- "53 Tokaido Bonsai -- Nihonbashi" and subsequent pages in; GoogleBooks.  A copy of this was also offered for sale to the Phoenix club 3 Mar 2011 by

1850 - 1899

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