Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Penjing market in Suzhou

I already mentioned visiting Suzhou in one of the posts last year. This post is about a street market specialising in selling penjing, flowers, rocks, ceramics, birds, fish and other objects associated with the traditional Chinese scholarship and connoisseurship. The market is a mixture of shops and street stalls (see images below). Being a non-Chinese language speaker made it harder for me to find it. Centre images below show the names of two streets. The market starts at their intersection. Saying these names to a local may not work, so it’s better to show.

The main object of my interest was penjing. There were enough trees on sale, but I got an impression that winter is not the best time to see penjing here. The emphasis was on pines and winter flowering deciduous trees (see images below).

The most impressive aspect of the market was rocks. Suiseki, viewing stones, Chinese scholar rocks whatever you want to call them. They ranged from fist size to a full height of a person, and I can tell you that one could fine treasures in every size category (see images below).

When I set out for the market, I was determined to buy a small or medium size bonsai pot as a memento, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. On one hand, there were a lot of cheap pots which would be worth taking to Australia. On the other hand, there were very fine quality pots which were prohibitively expensive. There was nothing in between, hence I left empty handed. Below are some photos of the bonsai pot stalls. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Penjing Museum at Shanghai Botanic Gardens

One of my recent posts was about Penjing Garden at the Shanghai Botanic Gardens. Guess what..? There also was a Penjing Museum! Actually, it wasn’t that exciting. It looked a bit rundown and the majority of information was just in Chinese. Explanation plates with English translations were somewhat ambiguous. Below are some photos of the museum displays aimed to give Chinese penjing a legitimate claim of being the first and the oldest.

The following is the legend for the images above as much as I could understand it.

A - Drawing of a ceramic shard excavated in Hemudu village, Zhejiang Province. Hemudu culture is dated from 5200 BC to 4500 BC. It seems that some researchers believe that it depicts a plat grown in a container.  

B - Picture of a potted plant painted on a corridor wall. The building dates back to Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD) and it was excavated in Wangdu Hebei Province. The painting is featuring a plant in a container with a stand.

C - Fresco of a person holding landscape penjing. It was discovered on the wall of a tomb build for the Tang Dynasty prince Zhang Huai (653–684 AD). It was excavated in the Qianling Mausoleum, Shanxi province.

D - Ink stone fashioned as a rock penjing. Tri-coloured glaze pottery of the Tang Dynasty excavated in Zhongbao village, Shaanxi Province (907-960 AD).

E - There was no English translation for this one, but it is a sculpture of a female holding rock penjing. It dates back to Southern Song Dynasty (1174-1252 AD).

A part of the museum wasn’t open to public, but I realised that only after entering it. It wasn’t locked and there were no “no entry” sign. The rooms were poorly lit and the exhibits were behind dirty glass, hence the photographs are not that good, but still worth sharing with those who are interested in this sort of thing. Below are images of some unglazed containers, probably Yuxing ware. The ones that look older could be Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). 

Some of the glazed containers are shown below.

There was also a variety of bonsai tables and stands (images below). One of them was ceramic (bottom image on the right) and it looks quite different from the ceramic stands I saw in Singapore (see

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Shanghai Confucius Temple

One of my recent posts talked about a teapot collection at the Shanghai Confucius Temple, but I haven’t said anything about the temple itself. I really liked its atmosphere of scholarship and art. I liked its beautiful traditional architecture, the garden, the second hand book market, the library, the lecture hall, the teapot collection and the scholar rock collection. Images below show some of its charming views.

Its indoors are very interesting too (see images below).

The garden has a few well-tended feature trees (see images below).

The temple garden and buildings were also decorated with many viewing stones or Chinese scholar rocks. Images below show some that caught my eye.

To see the post about the teapot collection at this temple visit

Friday, December 26, 2014

Penjing Garden at Shanghai Botanic Gardens

One of the highlights of my trip to China earlier this year was the visit to the penjing garden located in the grounds of Shanghai Botanic Gardens. This penjing garden is designed as a traditional Chinese stroll garden, therefore it is quite large with each penjing tree on its own stand where it can be appreciated individually (see images below).

The garden has quite a variety of plant species, but pines certainly rule supreme in winter. Many of them were quite impressive, however some of them were rather similar to each other as they shared the same design. Images below show a subset of them chosen almost randomly.

There were not that many Podocarpus and juniper penjing. Some of the Podocarpus trees are shown below.

As for the deciduous trees, I could only guess what species they are. Bare trees were hard to photograph because of the busy backgrounds behind them. Some of them were as grotesque as Chinese penjing can get. Below is a selection of the more conventionally designed trees. 

There were a number of XXL size trees which were not necessarily ‘dwarfed’. Some of them are shown in the images below. 

The garden features a glasshouse with tropical species penjing. The majority of them were figs and some of them are shown below.

Finally, there was a number of rock penjing. Some of them are shown in the images below.

The garden had some information plates. They explained that there are five traditional schools of penjing. They are Lignan, Yangzhou, Suzhou, Sichuan and Shanghai schools. Shanghai Botanic Garden is the main training center for the Shanghai school. They also very briefly introduced three penjing masters working there.

  • Master Yin Zi Min (born 1920) specialises in landscape penjing and he had made a great contribution to the development of Shanghai school of penjing.
  • Master Wang Yi Ding (born 1937) specialises in landscape penjing. He is an expert in horticultural and aesthetic theory and he had won many awards.
  • Master Shao Hai Zhong (born 1944) started practicing penjing in 1964. He specialises in medium and large size penjing and he had won many awards.

I would recommend this place to anyone anytime.