That’s the conclusion of Walter Pall, a master who is widely known expertise in All Style All Tree. According to him, until whenever the judging will remain subjective. Why?

In some countries, a number of activists and bonsai artists also ceaselessly trying to solve this problem. In Indonesia, for example, is now developing the idea of the possibility of bonsai classification based on the GENRE, which was introduced by dr. Willy Wihana –one of the pioneers of Indonesian bonsai.

WALTER PALL giving a workshop

WALTER PALL giving a workshop

But according to Walter Pall, all attempts to change what has been going on now in the judging system, it would only lead new problems. It will not remove the controversies of judging. Well … here’s my conversation with him.

As we know together, the results of the judging of a bonsai contest almost always cause controversy … wherever. In all conscience, where is the error judging system used in the various bonsai contests in this world?

Judging will ALWAYS be controversial, regardless of what is done. Judging is ALWAYS subjective. Trying to make it objective will not work. The result will seem objective, but really still is subjective. Everyone has his own taste and everyone thinks that he has a good taste. So if the judging results don’t coincide with one’s own taste they must be bad. And this will ALWAYS happen, regardless of how you are trying to prevent it.

As well as a world-class master known experties in ‘all styles all tree’, what would you think if the bonsai contest is no longer using classification system on the basis of size but on the basis of ‘genre’?

This is definitely not a solution but will only move the unavoidable problem to another field.

And to know a bonsai what genre it belongs in, we need a “Theory of Identification”. For example, viewed in terms the Art Components, Tree Erossion Phenomena (jin /shari /sabamaki /sharimaki /uro), Nature Tree Phenomena (formal /cascade /bunjin /wind sweept /mayogi/raft etc) …. Does this make sense?

Nice idea, but it will not remove the controversies of judging.

Based on “Theory of Identification” …. do you agree if the art of bonsai growing which currently consists of a “genre” Natural Chinese Style, Modern China Naturalist, Traditional Japanese Style, Modern Japanese Style, and Contemporary Style? Why?

Changing the classification will create great conflict, simply because people do not want change. If the change is meant to solve a problem which is unsolvable then one should not change.



Natural Chinese Style can be identified from the root (spread /nebari), the base of main trunk –trunk – branch 1-2-3, with characteristic twig grows facing up. Completeness tree anatomy is a top priority, view or perspective of bonsai coming from all directions ….


Modern Chinese Naturalist can be indentified from several this factor: single view and flow (composition /dimension /balance /character /and completeness tree anatomy) ….


With this “Theory of Identification” can also be concluded, Masahiko Kimura is not a pioneer of the contemporary style. He was one of the pioneers of Modern Japanese Style?

I don’t understand the question, or rather the statement. Kimura is the father of modern Japanese bonsai in my view. ‘Contemporary style’ does not exist. What exists is many styles in parallel at one point in time, some more and some less popular, some increasing in numbers and some disappearing. It has always been that way in art. ‘Contemporary’ is a snapshot of a point in time. It is not fixed but a moving target.

With the “Theory of Identification”, whether the issues in the controversy over the judging bonsai contest can be overcome? Or you have the other opinion?

There is now way that this can be overcome and this theory is not a solution to this unsolvable problem.

With that theory, bonsai contest in the future is no longer a “battle of the species” or “battle of size”, but the “war of the genre”… this idea is it reasonable?

It is never a battle between trees is is always a battle between people who all have their subjective taste. This battle can by definition not be won by anyone. There will be the struggle of tastes in eternity and it is OK. That proves that bonsai is an art form rather than a craft.

:::: IWAN /iwan@bursabonsai.com





  2. Tony Tickle says:

    Walter is spot on with his assessment of judging, I have been to many many large and small Bonsai exhibitions throughout Europe and I can think of only one occasion whereby EVERYONE was in agreement concerning the best tree. Judging is subjective… period!

  3. Walter Pall says:

    Please change the title:


  4. wong wah hung says:

    So long as judging is performed by humans there is bound to be controversies as we all have our personal tastes and bias. Therefore the role of a judge is an onerous one – he has to be not only be fair but seen to be fair as well – uninfluenced by relationship, pressure, greed, etc

  5. Andri says:

    A nice interview. I feel Mr. Pall did not say from his heart, but with a sense of wisdom.

  6. Cabulago says:

    I agree with Master Pall at the point that there is no way to remove the judging controversy. But in my opinion, there are still ways to reduce the magnitude of controversy it. I have noticed on many international contests, cascade style bonsai rarely win.

  7. daniel rojas says:

    I think the judging system currently used is sufficient. If then a controversy, I see it as a human error.

  8. Brown says:

    Through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely glad found it …

  9. Didier says:

    Thank you Mr Pall. I truly appreciate your information. This article has really peaked my interest.

  10. Shaukat says:

    Walter’s final conclusion says it all: ‘It is never a battle between trees; is always a battle between people…’

  11. Felice Boulduch says:

    I’ll copy paste this article to my blog if you give me a permited. Thank … gratitude for sharing.

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