Long enough bonsai with jin and shari (deadwood) dominate competitions at international level, especially in a variety of bonsai photo contest. What phenomenon is this?

Indeed … in many countries for national level competitions, classical and natural bonsai is still dominating. In the 3rd US National Bonsai Exhibit for example, from the eight categories are provided, just one tree (San Jose Juniper) with jin/shari who won the title of “Evergreen Bonsai Award” on behalf of Anthony J Alario from Rhode Island. Seven more award seized by bonsai with tipical Japanese Classic Style.

Similarly in Indonesia National Bonsai Exhibit 2013, the last month in the city of Cirebon, just one bonsai (Pemphis Acidula) with jin or shari who successfully broke in to prestigious group “The Best Ten” on Primary Class … owned by Adi Bima from Cirebon.

But the conditions would the contrary when we talk about bonsai contest at international level, especially bonsai photo contest. The winners of UBI and BCI or some other photo contest dominated by bonsais with jin or shari. What symptom is this?



Master WILLY WIHANA [Indonesia] who is currently doing research on the genre bonsai see all this phenomenon as a fact that art can not be avoided. “But I say, we must to go back (by definition) that bonsai is a work of art that imaginary man-made, the result of the manipulation of imaginary nature tree phenomena, tree erotion phenomena, natural drama, realized with the help of technical skills, specific technical equipment, appropriate components of art on each genre, planted in pots as needed of art,” he said.

Judging bonsai … jury, artists, collectors, curators, observers and laymen give an assessment of bonsai is the imaginary line with a capacity of each, are relatively graded. Except for the layman, all judge of character and art components of a bonsai. The beauty is not right to judge good or bad a bonsai, because the words “beauty” itself can be bias.

In line with the ‘every definition of bonsai’, the judging process is imaginary, the deadwood bonsai impression of survival against the forces of nature is very strong. Part deadwood panited white symbolic death (bone white) with live parts (veins/brown) and green leaves contrast pose. Colors that difficult to explain with words. Bonsai deadwood is also more attractive, sculpture /carving (artist skills in presenting erotion tree phenomena like jin, shari, sharimiki, sabamiki, uro) also includes natural drama.



“The trend about bonsai is change … ” said world-class master MAURO STEMBERGER (Italy) who won UBI Mention Merid 2010, 2012 and 2013 with bonsai using jin or shari.

Mauro says, all started with the works of Kimura who brings the extetical image of a bonsai to the limit. Big twisted trunks with jins and shari. Since that point lot of people where inspired by his work. If we consider bonsai at the artistic point of view as it should be, the aesthetical reserch of something extreme that in the maintime remind us the severe way how trees grow in nature, arrive at the creation of trees that are sculpture.

A similar opinion (about Kimura factors) was expressed by world-class master MORTEN ALBEK [Denmark], which is widely known as an expert in Shohin bonsai. “I have not followed all contests to know if the winners are in general bonsai that features deadwood, but deadwood on bonsai has increased in popularity in the Western world since the knowledge of Japanese bonsai artist Masahiko Kimura came around,” Morten said. Not long ago, one of his bonsai (without deadwood) won the award ‘Best in Show’ Danish National Bonsai Exhibit 2013.

According to him, dramatic trees with deadwood are great and interesting, but not the only bonsai around. And achieving great results with deciduous and flowering trees are as difficult as deadwood featuring conifers. Often the enthusiasts challenge themselves with the creating of deadwood, because it satisfies the inner artist and creativity that gives an almost instant result, in contradiction to the long termed and dedicated work developing the dense ramification needed on a Maple or other deciduous tree. Also the drama shown in the deadwood seems to win over the elegance of a feminine and peaceful Maple as it is seen by the majority. It is easier to get impressed by the harder approach of a conifer showing struggles for life, than the more silent approach of a Hornbeam or Crabapple e.g.



“So therefore, I think, also judges are often seduced by the deadwood dramatics of Jins or Sharis winning over silence and beauty from branches with characteristic old bark and green leaves or buds ready to burst,” said Morten and than explained, some years ago at the famous European Gingko Awards now diseased Japanese bonsai collector Daizo Iwasaki chose a Japanese Maple as winner ‘Best in Show’, and I believe people havent forgot it.

How could it win and impress this famous bonsai personality when holding it up against large and dramatic trees? It could, because Daizo Iwasaki knew how difficult a tree it was to train this way, so because of knowledge and artistic considerations this was his personal favourite. More often it could be so. But even more often the fashion, tradition and therefore maybe easier choices win. So it is, also in the motherland of bonsai in Japan, where almost always a conifer wins the major awards, because it has a more dramatic appearance than other species. So this we copy in the west without looking at our own nature culture and habits, in stead of finding our own ways. Maybe it will change a bit in future, maybe not much.



Granted, not all bonsai artist and collector too fanatical on bonsai deadwood. TEDI PRIATNA DARMA [Indonesia] for example, until last September this man had won 70 award winning from several Indonesian National Bonsai Exhibit and the majority captured by his bonsai Japanese Classic Style.

“I think … all of that could happen because bonsai with deadwood always managed to show the character of the old and the natural drama of a tree, especially if it is presented in the form and style of the exotic,” Tedi said.

According to him, bonsai lovers not only stunned by his natural look of the tree, but also accents jin or shari that reinforce the impression of the old. Perhaps that needs to be considered is whether jin or shari coherent with nature ‘immortality’ of bonsai? If the natural tree is usually the older more mature look, whether intentionally carved natural tree will actually look increasingly old? Or even going to be damaged, especially if the trunk or branches deadwood added.



Meanwhile ROBERT J BARANa Bonsai Researcher and Historian from USA– said all about this is not a surprise. This is a trend that intensified perhaps twenty years ago. It allows more artists to try their hands at sculpting large amounts of deadwood, attempting to explore the balance between human intervention and natural appearance in a wide range of sizes, textures and colors. It can be used to show the decline or mortality of the subject tree, from being a
vigorous member of the forest to being a lone skeleton in the wilderness and all stages in between.

“But not every tree ‘needs’ shari or jin. Can compositions just as aesthetically pleasing be made without a lot of deadwood? Can live wood or bark be as dynamic as skin stretched tightly over our muscles? Perhaps it is a style that “must” be actively explored more before the deadwood recedes further into the background. Is what we see a form of “goth” artistically potted trees, perhaps paralleling some of society’s more active interest in skeletons and our own deaths?,” he said.



Chairman of AKSISAIN (Association of Indonesian Bonsai Art Club) WISNU JAKA SAPUTRA says: “In my prediction, the tendency bonsai with jin or shari often dominate champion in the international contest bonsai can not be separated from the aesthetic tastes of the judges which is a reformulation of the various forms of internalization in the social field of the jury tree itself.”

He claimed, dewadwood (jins, shari, etc) on bonsai plants both native or that it is the creation of an artists ‘capable of producing , and add or strengthen an artistic impression on a bonsai ‘. Deadwood can produce a more unified composition (impact on the balance of symmetrical, asymmetrical, meta-symmetry, repetition, accent, proportion). Deadwood was the inspiration and the material of a bonsai artists in transforming an idea of the basic form/shape into the form of exploration/form). It is a very attractive also for the jury /audience when judging a work of art of bonsai because it can see the creativity and art components that can be presented by the artist on the bonsai more clearly.

:: TAUFIK ::

:: TAUFIK ::

TAUFIK HIDAYAT [Indonesia/Bonsai Enthusiast]
Art is subjective. Subjectivity that independent but have some form of universal attainment. He drew a taste of civilization. Deadwood phenomena that occupy the best positions in our bonsai contests, I guess its just a form of subjectivity assessment. Now to do some sort of revised valuation techniques or perspectives of critical bonsai lover because they are the ‘silence criticus’ who aspirational. In addition, equally important is the curation of argumentative as a form of accountability objective. Thus, art is also a science. In other words, bonsai is a science.


:: HALIM ::

:: HALIM ::

HALIM BONSAI [Indonesia/Bonsai Enthusiast]
Little bit opinion fellas, particularly regarding the photo contest winners bonsai mostly use jin and shari elements. This is very reasonable because jin or shari very deep images will greatly accentuate the dimensions, especially with a contrasting color, as compared with non jin bonsai photo. The result would have been different if the judging is done directly by looking at the physical bonsai. Bonsai deadwood will have weakness in the assessment element of “natural” because jin or shari be assessed more thoroughly than just a photo.

::: iwan@bursabonsai.com



  1. robby_huang says:

    something we must be know, that not all the bonsai hobbiist love deadwood, especially tanuki. Than we can see in some create, there are some artist use tanuki, finally the tanuki become more nice to see than the leaf or natural branch, or root, etc. So for me it’s just like ”hand made” , not an art (living art) that same like we see on picture, stone, wood (furniture).
    I think the better we make all bonsai from wire, simple ???
    That more exotic from real bonsai, but why all bonsai artist not do it?
    The answer is in wire bonsai & tanuki & deadwood bonsai do not have a REAL CHALLENGE !

  2. Ricardo Rodriguez says:

    A very enlightening article. In fact, in our country, classical and natural bonsai remains a favorite. We always regard bonsai photo contest is just a photo contest. No more and no less.

  3. samuel says:

    I agree with Mr Tedi and Mr Albek, classical bonsai and even bonsai fruit or bonsai flowers no less prestige than bonsai with jin or shari. Just to get an impression of the old and the natural drama, a bonsai deadwood often it seems redundant, irrational and dorky.

  4. Adam Bonsai says:

    Nice Bonsai…..

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  7. Robby_Huang says:

    I agree with you Samuel …
    A good vision !

  8. Robert Pirres says:

    I hope we are talking here irrespective of Tanuki. I doubt judging system in a variety of bonsai photo contest. How they can prove that some of the nominees or winners is not a Tanuki?

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