Magical Miniature Landscapes
SiteKudos, and website
page for additional background.
(I first learned about bonsai through Ann Pipe’s book in late Oct. 1969. As this was in the days before seemingly every house had a copier/printer -- yes, pre-PC -- I used tracing paper to record several of the line drawings. (Those sketches are long gone.) Over the next 16 years, other than the first Sunset Bonsai book, the 1967 Readers’ Digest article about Murata, and occasional newspaper articles, I really didn’t read anything about bonsai or its background. A plant or two a year was kept by me as minimal experience, usually in an orange clay flowerpot after receiving a little pruning to rough shape. I did happen to have been familiarizing myself a little, however, with Chinese history since the late 1970s due to some ongoing research on the Chinese pyramids, specifically those near Xian.)
I initially got serious about bonsai in Feb. 1986 when I planted some seeds gotten through a Spencer Gifts mail order kit containing a half dozen varieties. Of the plants that came up, a Japanese Red Pine ( P. densiflora ) lasted the longest -- through the middle of June 1988 when I accidentally left it on the south-facing porch rail till late morning [in Phoenix, AZ]... Other and larger nursery, dug, or established trees would come and go through my collection. (And reviewing notes, I see I also had a small Italian Stone Pine Christmas tree from Dec. 85 - June 86).
The first books about bonsai which I read included: BBG's Handbook of Bonsai: Special Techniques, Bonsai by Paul Lesniewicz, The Masters' Book of Bonsai by Koide Nobukichi et al, Miniatures and Bonsai by Philip Perl, The Beginner's Guide to American Bonsai by Jerald P. Stowell, A Dwarfed Tree Manual for Westerners by Samuel Newsom, Bonsai – Miniature Trees by Claude Chidamian, The Creative Art of Bonsai by Isabelle and Rémy Samson, and Shufunotomo's The Essentials of Bonsai. Their few lines about the history were written down and constituted the beginning of my journey.
In the spring of 1986 I joined the American Bonsai Society and started receiving their
quarterly Bonsai Journal and the ABStracts newsletter.
At the old Main Phoenix Public Library (across the street from where I worked), I scoured the Reader’s Guide to Periodic Literature to track down early articles and references. I basically chose articles by what was suggested by the title, and then looked them up. As the Library has a good selection of bound and microfilmed periodicals, I'd make a certain length list and then hit the shelves or the cabinets. I easily perused at least 5x as many articles as finally made the first versions of the pre-WWII and post-WWII lists (a handy arbitrary division point) over the next few years. (I'm sure not all the articles have yet been found.)
In September I joined the Phoenix Bonsai Society. In a short time I would discover their holdings of back issues of BCI's Bonsai Magazine and IBA's International Bonsai. Then various members' private holdings of Bonsai Today and some early copies of the ABS Bonsai Journal and current GSBF Golden Statements. Wu Yee-Sun's Man Lung Artistic Pot Plants, editions 1 and 2, were seen in the holdings of the PBS, as well as John Naka's Bonsai Techniques I, II, and Satsuki. I photocopied much. (Four file cabinet drawers' worth to date.)
A copy of Deborah Koreshoff's 1984 Bonsai; Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy was found at Arizona State University's library in Dec. 1986. Its nineteen page history would have sufficed this researcher if it had been read six months earlier -- but when I did view it I discovered that I had already uncovered a few bits of early American bonsai history not dealt with by Australian Koreshoff. Probably the first big "A-ha!" moment. So, I continued... (That same library visited yielded the first of the Garden and Forest articles I would find.)
The bibliography early on was expanded to include other titles known-of but not seen. The Phoenix Public Library's copy of the National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints (© 1970 Mansell Information/Publishing Limited. ©1970 The American Library Association, Chicago. With 685 main volumes and another sixty-nine (plus?) as supplements, this is about the closest American equivalent you can readily find to the numerous massive encyclopedias of old China) was searched for titles, principally by known and intuited -- Japanese mostly -- authors' last names. This was done, fortunately, at the library's old site on McDowell Rd. (After the move a few blocks south on Central Ave., these volumes were stored out of ready access.) The Phoenix Art Museum, right next door to the old location, was visited on my lunch hour during a few Japanese woodblock print exhibitions.
Background info via Japan the Official Guide (copy of 1941 edition gotten at the Visiting Nurses Auxilary Annual Booksale in Feb. 1988) and E. Papinot's Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan.
Moving the earliest known use of "bonsai" in English [at the time] back a generation (Aug. 1989).
Memories of getting up a little earlier before work to wake up my mental engines by having breakfast while reading a chapter from Siebold, Dr. Philipp Franz von Manners and Customs of the Japanese or Yule, Col. Sir Henry (trans. & ed.) The Book of Ser Marco Polo The Venetian Concerning the Kingdoms and Marvels of the East or Bretschneider, Emil, M.D. History of European Botanical Discoveries in China and also his Botanicon Sinicum.
CPT 8” Floppy disks were the first storage media for the history which I was starting to compile, afterhours where I worked (1986-1990).
T03he earliest lecture I gave on the history of bonsai took place in September of 1989 at a meeting of the Phoenix club. For most of the members present, this was the first time they were aware that such a thing existed. (One more formal lecture before the club would follow, as well as a lecture in front of a local civic group, informal summaries during various Matsuri displays, and a 45 minute run-through to a captive audience of 3 other club members on a trip back from a Tucson nursery in June of 2000.) The Phoenix club holds its biggest annual show during the Japanese Week Matsuri downtown. Almost every late February from 1987 through 2002 I participated, providing some of the commentary during demonstrations, displaying a few trees, and sharing a little more history with club members or visitors.
A member of the Phoenix Bonsai Society (whose name is long forgotten) suggested to me during the February 1990 Matsuri show that the way to prelude a book was by having articles on the subject published first. So I wrote "Hachi No Ki" (my first hand-written draft is undated; my typed submission was responded to by ABS editor Jack Wikle on May 29, 1990). Several contemporary references had made passing mention of this Noh play -- including variations on the lead character's name -- and I thought it deserved further telling of background and plot. The bibliographical works I now have listed for that play on this website and other volumes had already been studied by this time.
This was followed by "Some Bonsai Futures" (first hand-written draft is dated July 1, 1990; typed submission responded to on Oct. 25, 1990). But Jack Wikle wisely suggested "Futures" would be a stronger/better introduction of me to the bonsai community. The many history notes I'd compiled had gotten me thinking about what we probably would see and experience regarding this art/hobby. The article did require substantial rewriting on my part based on many perceptive observations by Jack. After two last-minute publication drops due to space considerations, "Some Bonsai Futures" was finally published in the Fall 1991 issue of ABS Journal. "Hachi No Ki" was then published in the Summer 1992 issue, having been passed on to the new editor, Arch Hawkins.
I retyped my book notes into a Commodore 64 word processing program and expanded the draft (1990-93).
The earliest version of the results of the PBS club plant survey which I instigated was published on two pages in the 1991-92 club yearbook as "Practical Hints." (The 2012 version of "Bonsai Care in Phoenix" has two pages of introduction, followed by thirteen pages on the plants. Since Fall of 2002, the website version has had a few more details because of space restrictions in the yearbook, including the taxonomic Family and Order. In the summer of 2008 a major overhaul of the plant list was made by several members of the club and its results are now in the yearbook and on the website.)
"America Peeks" was published in the Winter 1992 Journal, having initially been received by Arch Hawkins by mid-October 1992. (My hand-written first draft for the article "18th & 19th Century America's Peaks [sic] at Bonsai" is dated Aug. 28, 1992; the second draft with the final title is from Sept. 3). The Colonial involvement with the China trade pushed back our first exposures to dwarf potted trees and I wanted to share this knowledge.
Then as I learned my way around Word Perfect software, I retyped all the growing book notes again (1993-98), but then was able to have them switched fairly automatically over to MS Word (c.1998)
Annual late-summer workshops with visiting teachers were started for the Phoenix club in 1993. Our first guest sensei was Mel Ikeda, followed by Jim Barrett (who specifically I interviewed for historical info), Sze-Ern "Ernie" Kuo, Roy Nagatoshi, and Ben Oki. Ben has been our annual teacher since, with his workshops moved to a slightly cooler November setting.
Many set decorations involving bonsai or reasonable facsimiles were discovered while just relaxing and watching TV or movies/videos. My very first hand-written draft of an article was dated Nov. 18, 1992 and titled "On the Big and Small Screen." It did have a subsection with just the "Star Trek" episodes labeled "To Boldly Grow." Nothing much was done with this for nearly three years. The first dated typed version is marked Aug. 1, 1995 with the title "Some Screen Portrayals of Bonsai." My hand-written editing of this changed the title to "To Boldly Grow: Some Cinematic Bonsai." Per an e-mail to RJB from editor Jill Hurd on Nov. 8, 1995, the article was split into two parts and put into the two-column format (which I also used when the info was reproduced on this website). The article saw print in ABS Bonsai Journal issues Winter 1995 and Spring 1996. I hadn't seen anything like this in the magazines previously, so I thought maybe it would be fun to do. Some of the references I had gathered were not used in that article. Many of the others were found posted on the Internet Bonsai Club's newsgroup (either with or without some passing reference to this site's listings), and a few just e-mailed directly to me. These became "To Boldly Grow: Some Celluloid Bonsai (Part III)." (At least one acquaintance has reprimanded me about using the split infinitive...) Hud Nordin's opening haiku originated in an e-mail to me about the year 2000. In 2001 I split the references after the year 1999 into a Part IV. As additional sightings were made or brought to my attention they were put into the appropriate part (III or IV) of the chronology. A summary and analysis of the years and media was first compiled in November 2004. I finally got around to begin including computer and video games portrayals near the end of April 2005.
I initially joined the Internet Bonsai Club in Apr. 1995. Regularly viewing and sometimes participating thru Aug. 1996, I very briefly stopped in the spring of 1998 before rejoining in May 1999. A very decent bunch of around 500+ people from all over the globe, they do hold surprisingly strong opinions when it comes to subjects as wide-ranging as digging wild trees to preserving original bonsai styles in collection trees to handling pests and feeding formulae. And a whole lot more. During the first year or so I shared a little history and picked up new info and confirmation of some things.
An initial hand-written draft of "Club Tree Experience Survey" was composed on Sept. 18, 1995. The typed article was faxed to Jean C. Smith, the managing Editor of BCI Bonsai Magazine, on Oct. 24. It was published in the January/February 1996 issue, coincidentally as the last article in the last issue edited by Jean. This came about when I realized I'd never seen mention of such a project (above) in any of the books or magazines. I figured that others might do similar surveys for their locales. Re-reading this article, I very clearly see the basic framework for Designing Dwarfs in the Desert, Up Through the First 35 Years of the Phoenix Bonsai Society (November 1997). That book's basic decade-chapter format can be traced back to the format I used for an in-house history compiled for a company I worked at between 1984 and 1992. (See also Club History after 1997.)
Queries to a dozen and a half Japanese/Asian subject publishers in the mid-1990s resulted in the awareness that this project -- some 600 single-spaced pages on all aspects of the history from neolithic China up through the near future -- was simply too detailed for most in-print markets. Several rejection letters suggested that if I cut it down to around 200 pages they might consider it. "I'll get back to you" was my unspoken reply.
In 1996, a series of talks with Wendy Zaritsky, a self-published author and editor living in Phoenix at the time, led me to see the possibility of self-publishing the "Big History." It was she who suggested that I come up with a catchier name than my ultra-pragmatic working title: An Introduction to the History of Bonsai and Penjing. So, I went through my typed notes and came upon the phrase "Magical Miniature Landscapes" (which dates at least from 1992). That became the new title -- and was first used in print for 1997's Designing Dwarfs in the Desert (page 2 top, page 71 bottom, page 79 top as the title of what was planned to be my forthcoming book, and with an accidentally flipped version of the phraseology on the middle of the back cover). (BTW, our club history's very first working title was Designed Dwarfs in the Desert. Soon I realized that it made more sense to do this as an ongoing story.) This club history focused my research for the next two years. In March 1997 I finally attended my first non-Phoenix show: the California Bonsai Society's 40th anniversary presentation plus the opening of the GSBF South collection at the Huntington Museum. During these four days, by way of a chartered bus with a dozen other Phoenix club members, I experienced my first true all-bonsai nurseries. (So what if I was the president of the club -- my enthusiasm spilled forth like the proverbial kid in the candy shop!) I finally met longtime Phoenix club honorary senseiJohn Naka, along with a few other national and international teachers.
I also had/have the knack on more than a few occasions of opening a non-bonsai, non-Asian history book -- fact or fiction -- and randomly finding the only and unexpected use of the word "bonsai" in the entire volume.
JOINING ONTO THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Getting e-mail access to the Internet in April 1999 also gave me 5MB of space for a personal website. I didn't have that much to talk about for myself, but, hey, I did know of this one gardening club, and maybe I could also squeeze in a few things from my "big history" project... And so it began. (I tweaked the template background color a couple of times to lighten it up.) The amount of space available over time rose to 10MB, then 20MB, and now has jumped to an almost unimaginable 1GB. From the very start I searched for additional info on ideal website construction and incorporated the standard Top 10 Tips -- the main reason there were no appreciable graphics on our home page until the summer of 2010. (Oh, other than the "dancing pyramid" .gif which was an option in the Netscape template and which I, of course, had to use. When the front page was revised, the pyramids went to the Pyramid Dancer page, of course.) Also, from the beginning was the intent to assemble a website with all the credible and documented info and links that I would have liked to have found had it been available when I first started my research on the history of bonsai and related arts.
Versions of Netscape Composer have been used for the now first half of the html incarnation of the history (1999-mid-January 2006). Arachnophilia 5.2 was then adopted when I had a computer switch, to be replaced by CoffeCup in June 2012 with another computer switch -- Arachnophilia just wouldn't work on the new machine for some reason, although I did try.
At the beginning of May 1999 I attended the ABS Symposium in Tucson.
A sifting of info from Designing Dwarfs for a planned John Naka obituary -- something many newspapers and magazines have pre-written -- was thankfully and quickly reworked by early May 1999 as an ongoing biography. What was meant to be a series of other master bios resulted in the life stories of Yoshimura (by Aug. 1999), Katō (by October), and Murata (by December). A few other masters were early drafted but never followed through with.
A visitor counter was added by late May. My ABS articles were reproduced on the site upon receipt of permission from ABS editor Jill Hurd.
By September 1999 we had English Language Bonsai Bibliographies, Pre-1945 and Post-1945 (the latter not really being kept up), a start of the What Was New? page which listed previous website version additions, my thesis of the history as The Big Picture, and, to tie in with the Phoenix Bonsai Society's new club year, a Club Activity Calendar. (Many of the details on this calendar over the years are actually cut and pasted from general e-mails sent out by the Phoenix and Tucson club presidents.) October saw the first listings of the Books and Magazines. During the next couple of months a SiteMap was added and the entries for the books were color coded by a (somewhat arbitrary) category system. In response to a Chris Cochrane e-mail about the number of books I had listed, I overestimated severely -- I think I unconsciously added the number of clubs I had once tallied. When I did an actual count soon after and realized my mistake, I began the analysis which since about Nov. 2002 has been on that page. I keep the complete detailed breakdown on an Excel spreadsheet. As new additions to the list require a complete retotaling which is then transferred to the web page and double-checked by hand-held calculator, I wait until I have several titles before doing an update.
By March 2000 came the first version of what may possibly have been seen as a very audacious project, the Bonsai Book of Days. In late November came Origins of Some of the Terms. (About a year later I came upon a site elsewhere on the Internet that had an older but less ambitious listing of Chinese and English words.) By January 2001 came Japanese Portrayals in Paintings and Woodblock Prints -- apparently the first time anywhere side-by-side representations were shown. Chinese Portrayals would come in March, as well as a Site Search engine and the first Graphics Gateway pages. These haven't "taken off" as well as I expected, although the seeds were planted: the many images we have on the website can be appreciated by non-English-speaking persons also. November 2001 saw the first listing of online club newsletters. Also the listing of Chinese Schools and Styles -- which Scottish teacher Craig Coussins quickly stumbled upon and which text was slightly modified for use in his book The Bonsai School a little more than a year later. And the new year saw the centennial publication of the first European-language work entirely about bonsai.
March of 2002 saw the splitting of John Naka's bio into two (more easily readable) parts -- it was later split further -- plus the first of Some of What We Don't Know About the History of Magical Miniature Landscapes. (Several times since then I would have to get out of bed at night before falling asleep in order to jot down a headful of thoughts about what we don't know, so that I could then forget about them and go to sleep. While reading other subjects, I often have been able to take away non-horticultural concepts and turn them into questions eligible for Don't Know. The "pre-sleep download" has taken place for several sections, including the Assumptions Used on this Website portion of the MML start page.) (Momentary paradigm-shift: has a small part of this been "channeling" of anonymous bonsai teachers who are on the other side?!?)
During the Mohave County Home and Garden Shows in Kingman during mid-March 2003 and 2004 and a few meetings the following summers, I talked about and demonstrated on bonsai basics, including history. A few people who were interested enough to stick with it continue the art/hobby in northwestern Arizona, but there wasn't enough steam to get a club continuing there.
My earlier collecting of postage stamps had
several from China, including a few with bonsai/penjing. Some of the
– image scans or leads -- used on this website (from Oct. 1999 on) were also
e-mailed to me because of the others seen on the site. A listing of specifically
started in May 2005. (I am aware of the arguments about not
depicting such issues. However, the graphics I have for these are
definitely not mint-quality for further illegal replication, and the
authority source text is not detailed enough for complete identification. This
an educational website.)
By the end of 2003 we had the first Magazine Covers, and the first historical Anomalies.
In late October 2004 I started searching the Library of Congress online links to the Memory of America project for optically scanned issues of periodicals from the 19th century. Several early article references to dwarf trees were discovered there and typed/proofed on to this site.
A number of times a year or so I'll spend a few hours looking on the Internet for useful additional background for any of the material already here on this site. That's basically where updates come from. BTW, I have mixed feelings when I enter a search phrase/person's name and our site comes up as the only result. Yes, I am glad that this website is so authoritative on the subject; but, no, when I am searching I want some new information!
Growing up I did read a few history and archaeology texts -- most memorable was C.W. Ceram's Gods, Graves and Scholars. Archaeology was considered one of my career paths in grade school. (Life happened and I chose marine biology in high school, which became Radio-TV-Film due to college choice based on family budget, which was then interupted by the real world after three years.) My childhood home, of course, received National Geographic and Life magazines; I later became a fan of Smithsonian magazine. Early on I had become the family historian, both as genealogist and keeper of some old headline newspapers and magazines. I had no formal history training after the standard classes in college, but did and do read occasional articles on the discipline. Also, I devour works on legitimate historical revision, history trivia, debunking of pseudohistory, and archaeological discoveries around the world.
My note-taking and article-clipping days go back to grade school, memorably including David Dietz's syndicated newspaper science column. Numerous newspaper and magazine articles became dust in an un-cooled closed-down office in Phoenix during a mid-1970s summer. I started clipping again with a passion and a decade later I had a private classification system for a couple hundred folders' worth of material.
My interest in Japan dates back to grade school when my uncle -- who would later nominally enroll me in the Phoenix Bonsai Society in Oct. 1971 -- sent back a few [non-bonsai] items from Japan during his short military posting there. (The Reader's Digest Murata article followed a couple years later.) My interest in things Chinese probably dates from a decade further on. Over the years various projects I've worked on have made me aware of some of the promise and perils of research and translation, including some extensive genealogical historical studies. In the past fourteen years or so I've read a few in-print or electronic articles regarding writing and researching history to specifically help me stay focused. There has also been exposure over time to various broadcast or recorded programs from the Public Broadcasting System, the History Channel, A&E, the Discovery Channel, and so forth. Plus, it is not so much academic knowledge as just understanding what it is that I have been doing for twenty-seven years in compiling this history. The hundreds of articles and hundreds of books I've looked at do have their own patterns and flows, sometimes immediately evident, sometimes made aware of during meditation upon a different book. I take a variety of notes and make some photocopies in addition to my high memory-retrieval rate.
The sources I do check out are basically approached two ways: either a book or article is known or suspected to have some of this history in it or else the material is believed at least to have useful general background info. Either of these two sources might contain illustrations of bonsai portrayals. I have looked at scores of art and landscape books while searching for previously unseen pictures -- again, primarily about Chinese or Japanese collections or subjects. Titles or persons mentioned in any of the above are then looked up on the Internet for additional details. If additional details are to be found or seem to be found in new books or articles, these are then researched similarly. And the hunt can begin again. (At any given time I might have one or two more titles to be InterLibrary Loan ordered...) Plus, the Internet can be a wonderful source of material on innumerable subjects -- judiciously considered, especially in light of my past researchers and readings.
Regarding A Suggested Timeline for the Development of Magical Miniature Landscapes,
“"Last November  I started building this particular web page based on key notes from my unpublished manuscript/researches. I decided I needed to then have the footnotes available in order to continue the unwritten theme I've used in creating this website: a well-documented and detailed exploration. (In the 60s and 70s issues of the bonsai magazines, there were so many short articles/space fillers rehashing just a few points of the history. Shortly after I started my researches I learned that I had come upon info not previously published in these articles or books, so I continued...) I initially realized that many of the chronology notes were from sections whose citations had been grouped by chapter, essentially blending the origin of the specific points. So, I started to comb through all my old notes, earlier drafts and assorted photocopies of source material gathered since early 1986. Only the other day I decided that the motivation to complete this was by putting what I had right now on the web. So I did a 'final push' yesterday and published what I had.
"I know additional points will further flesh out this chronology which is, I suppose to be technical, my working hypothesis on how magical miniature landscapes developed out of the various suggested cultural sources to be what it is today."
from RJB's e-mail to Marty Haber, May 23, 2005, after Marty complimented the page.
In mid-August 2005 I finished the first version of the background story to this research, On the Creative Process of Compiling This History (this present page you are reading, which I first started to work on in late May 2003). And I followed it with a new page: many books, articles and sites mention the early international expositions (Paris and London, usually) that had bonsai on display, but my studies show it wasn't that short and simple -- or accurately repeated. This was another "a-ha! Why don't I set the record straight?" moment. And so it was created, hyperlinked and published: Expositions Know to Have Had Bonsai Present.
In late August we switched to double alpha designations for the various languages in the books listing.
What is hoped to be the [slow] start of a database log of Dreams we've had involving our past, present and future bonsai was published. Take a look and let me know if you would like to contribute something.
The Kokufu-ten page was not originally meant to be the definitive source of info for that prestigious bonsai exhibition. In late September 2005 I started to put together a quickie table-chart to show in which year which number show took place. I soon discovered that, as I went backwards from the 80th show scheduled in 2006, the numbering was confounded in the 1950s and earlier. An e-mail to Dr. Tom Elias of the National Arboretum received a partial answer. I started to add in the bits and pieces of Kokufu history of which I knew. A copy of the numbering list sent to Dr. Tom I then sent to William N. Valavanis in late October. Much to my pleasant surprise, this started a veritable flood of information from Bill in his e-mails back-and-forth to me, along with album cover images. Sometime in November the first official version of this page was published on the web site. Bill was able to find a few more dated shows and I did also from my ongoing researches. He then asked that I re-send him on Feb. 7, 2006 a list of questions about the show which he would have with him in Tokyo for which he would then get the answers. This was dutifully accomplished, and I am very grateful that he was able to work into his busy schedule (leading a tour of some 43 persons) the sending of some answers to me. The Kokufu-ten page was being updated during the show in near real-time. Upon his return Bill e-mailed me some photos he had taken and several of these I added to the pages. And so these pages now provide much more info about this grand show than had been previously gathered in any other medium or language. That is the essence of what I've been working to achieve here.
My writing and research on this website has redirected most of my interest in writing articles on this subject for outside sources. I never was a quickie, filler or fluff article writer: I admit that my articles are usually concentrated and require more than one reading to digest. With web publishing, typo corrections and updates can be made literally at any time of day and as often as I want. A topic can be expanded upon and/or hyperlinked without concern of page size or printing schedules, and thus this version of the "Big History" is much more fluid and comprehensive than any even looseleaf print version could have been nearly twenty years ago if the history had been chosen for publication then.
It is conceivable that at some point I could gather all the immutable pages together, such as the historical articles, and get them published in hard copy form for ready-reference by anyone so interested. I agree that for much of that type of material a book-in-hand format with proper indexing would be easier and quicker to check, compared with going online. We will see...
If I come upon news of a recent event I can include it, along with a whole range of relevant details. One of many times that I demonstrated this to myself, for example, was with the May 11, 2001 Boldly Grow entry for "Wall$treet Week with Louis Rukeyser." Within a half hour of my seeing this with bonsai set decor, this was listed on the website and worldwide on the Internet. And, a few times, minor corrections received by e-mail were applied within an hour of my checking my mail. This site, in its own very small and modest way, is exploring the modern compiling of [ancient] history.
One project I was working on (beginning July 2006) was something for the American Bonsai Society's new booklet series. The version of the history of dwarfed potted trees I was doing for them takes a little different approach to the subject than what is mostly found on this present website. The print date was supposed to have been February 2007, but when I submitted the material at the end of December I coincidentally received an e-mail stating that ABS had put future booklets on hold due to financial constraints. The process of assembling the material in a different fashion, anyway, caused me to see new connections and to look more closely at less obvious data in the older articles. (I met with the ABS president at the June 2012 Denver convention and related the history of my booklet. He asked me to send him my manuscript for it. Making just a few updates, I did, and he responded that the format was different but a little jarring. I started to put the material into standard chronological order, but then realized that with the various projects I had going and several renderings of the history of bonsai and related arts that I had put on-line, my heart was not into doing another rendering right now. So I responded cordially and he left the door open for me if and when I changed my mind later.)
Another project is a massive addition to Japanese Portrayals, courtesy of researcher Horst Graebner. Over 4 dozen images have been added, all from the hand of the woodblock artist Kunisada. Several trees snow-covered in winter; several new varieties not previously seen in prints. An important broadening of our idea of dwarfed potted trees from c.1820 - 1868. This is now "completed."
Then in November 2006 I finally started to venture into Google Books, a vast resource of digitalized public domain works. Several additional early mentions of either Chinese or Japanese dwarf potted trees have been found, and these are being added to this site over time. Very basically, after I locate a reference, I go to the Plain Text version and cut and paste what I need to a special long document I keep. Illustrations are saved to the appropriate file on my computer and I use either the programs Picasa or Paint to do slight touch-up if necessary. The URL is saved. When I am ready to add the page to the web-site, I find a suitable existing page for use as a model, save it to a different title, and proceed to make general changes. Copying the text to the web page, I split long page lines and replace certain punctuation that won't copy correctly. Line break code is added as well as paragraph breaks and indents. Next, I add in the illustrations with any captions. At this point I will start to proof the web page against the original text. Hyperlinks, notes with cross-references to existing articles, and biographies get added. Add to the Site Map, pre-1945 Bibliography, and/or Travellers pages and I am ready to publish it all. Small articles could be done in one long sitting, while larger articles may take several different days.
Google Books also led me to check Fa-ti Fan's 2004 British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire, and Cultural Encounter. A spin-off from studying this book via InterLibrary Loan is a page here listing dwarf trees actually seen in England. My cornucopia of early references to dwarf potted trees in China or Japan continues to pour out with additional insight into what really was announced about these. I've had to become more critical of what I include, although I may make a catch-all page for very brief references which are otherwise not stand-alone worthy.
An Internet Bonsai Club mention in February 2007 of an upcoming celebration of 100 years of bonsai in Germany led me to the site about that. With some Babel Fish machine translation help, I focused my search on Georg Meister who has now predated Kaempfer in briefly writing about Japanese dwarf potted trees to a European audience (1692 <== 1727). That page then ended up being referenced in IBC when the event took place in June. And a commemorative book in German has now raised the bar for further research. (Details on a second person, J.H. Seidel from 1803, are now being tracked down along with his specific mention of Chinese dwarf potted trees.) Research in Google Books would lead me in late 2008 to Peter Mundy's earlier 1637 reference in English (although the actual historical journal entry was not [widely?] published until 1919.)
A series of e-mails in May 2007 led me to being gifted by former BCI president Alan Walker a whole collection of digital photos which he had taken or otherwise come into possession of during the past several years. These he is graciously allowing me to add throughout this site to greatly enhance the tales herein.
In May and June I added the break-downs of several of the kanji used in the Origins of Some of the Terms.
While doing an educational poster in late January 2008 for the Pikes Peak Bonsai Society based on text I had originally written as the pp. 1 & 2 introduction in Designing Dwarfs in the Desert, I thought about the line "Our interest in this is now shared by others acting either alone or associated with some eight hundred clibs in over seventy countries and territories." How many locations was bonsai in? I made a quick list and temporarily left it at about eighty. Two months later, thinking about this further, I started doing research in my collection of specialty-magazine back issues. A preliminary new web page began to be fleshed out. In May while writing the bottom of the page apology for certain arbitrary definitions, I realized that I needed to be more detailed with the individual states and provinces listed for at least some of the countries. I went back into the back issues and additional pages were made. By early September the first draft of this section was ready for publication and announced on a few key web sites. It was soon after this time that links to that section and the Book of Days were added to our home page. Additional forums for bonsai enthusiasts around the world have also been added here.
During one week-end in July 2009 I put together the initial version of Earliest Western Reports of Various Kinds of Trees by reviewing the pre1800 Books listings and all the historical articles. Additional articles are now checked for possible updates to the Western Reports.
In mid-November 2009 I came upon an extremely brief Wikipedia article for Masahiko Kimura. Realizing that I had a Book of Days listing for him on the 31st, I discovered that my info was barely more fleshed out. After hunting down a number of additional references, I simultaneously published a longer bio on this outstanding master in both Wikipedia and Book of Days. I've also added substantial history to the penjing, bonsai, and Hòn Non Bô articles, as well as details to The National Bonsai Foundation and Wu Yee-sun. And created two articles, bios on Yuji Yoshimura and Bill Valavanis. Plus substantial additions to the Book of Days project.
Setting up the various obituaries causes me to feel another thread of the big picture that most others don't/can't experience -- a further sense of connection with this art/hobby and playing the self-chosen role of both bearer of sad tidings and glad memorializer. Of course, I read each obit that I publish. But basically I first have to craft each from one to a dozen different sources -- some postings known to other enthusiasts and some not -- eliminating duplicated info, following-up by searching for additional details along certain uncovered lines especially with conflicting data, finding what these individuals did as bonsai enthusiasts and, hopefully, a few other aspects of their lives and families, and also, less commonly, getting more details from family members through e-mails I initiate or which come to me by the family's own seach inquiries.
March of 2010 saw the introduction of Pots and Potters, a grand listing on that often-untold portion of this. And I significantly added to the number of Conventions, Symposia and Exhibitions we have listed. A curriculum vitae (CV) of sorts was first published.
In late July 2010 the club added an assistant to the webmaster in the person of Eric Zimmet. His extensive experience in web design and computers allowed us to modernize some elements of the web site, especially the home page and Phoenix club section. The on-line home page was made to reflect ongoing changes to the proposed one so that the roll-out of the revision would not be quite so jarring to the public. A more organized presentation of links was put together on the home page and Magical Miniature Landscapes page. A Facebook site and YouTube channel were established. And I was able to split some more of the very long pages, which I had already started to do earlier that year.
October 2010 saw a second round of archival club newsletters added, especially older issues. Taking a look at these, you can see hints at what went into Designing Dwarfs in the Desert and the early pages of this web site.
The year 2010 ended with the introduction of the How Many Enthusiasts Are There page. Through its posting on the Internet Bonsai Club forum, I was then contacted by Oscar Jonker of Belgium of bonsaiempire.com. From this series of communications (e-mail, IBC, Facebook) I got some updates to the Enthusiasts page and also the opportunity to create a detailed history for the English portion of Oscar's site. That history is a custom five page version of the 18-page talk I've distilled from the 60+ page Timeline. The following April I let Oscar publish The Synergy of Magical Miniature Landscapes. It had originally been presented by me as a lecture before the Pikes Peak Bonsai Society in May 2009. The article version was slightly expanded and with more quotations.
The first version of the Lineage of Some of Our Teachers was presented as a schematic in late January 2011. Some additional info and questions by my extremely helpful colleague, William N. Valavanis, led me to also make a more detailed spreadsheet version
In early May, assistant web master Eric Zimmet put forth the first version of the Photo Galleries -- Bonsai, Kusamono, Tokonoma, Suiseki for the Phoenix club. Eric, president Jamie Sims, and I had discussed such a thing toward the end of last year and a tentative version was mocked-up. This format that Eric has come up with, however, is very much improved from that.
In mid-May I started to gather together what few notes I had regarding the Imperial Bonsai Collection, something which had enticed me for sometime. As there was very little "out there," I figured this would be another little thing I could summarize. Starting with Warren Hill's "Reflections on Japan" (NBF Bulletin, Winter 2000), I added a few other notes and some Wikipedia links. At the end of May I published my initial work with notice of it to a few people, including Chris Cochrane. Chris referred me to Yoshihiro Nakamizu in Japan, who he said had, at one point, an acquaintance who was curator of the Collection. Mr. Nakamizu introduced me to his assistant, Ms. Harumi Fujino, instead, and Harumi was gracious enough to review my material and send me corrections and comments on it as she could find time to do so. Meanwhile, Alan Walker was another person to whom I showed my draft and he volunteered to send me scans of the history pages from the 1976 book The Imperial Bonsai of Japan. I mentioned that it was a resource I would like to see someday, he happened to have a copy, and he very graciously scanned the oversize pages and e-mailed them to me on June 8. That weekend I worked in much of the material and then published a longer page. A copy of this I sent to Harumi about the time I received her first review. A series of e-mails with her and Mr. Nakamizu let me thank them for their extraordianry efforts and time and satisfied them as to my non-commercial, educational intents. This was an open-ended project -- yes, larger than initially described -- but I was in no hurry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Harumi sent me sections reviewed. As we discovered, not all of my researches she could readily confirm, and some of her statistics differed from the ones I had found for historical events. I combined our notes for what I felt would be the best portrayal of the story. And about the time I received the scans from Alan, Chris sent me the Googlemap coordinates for the Ōmichi Bonsai Shitate-ba. I zeroed in on the site and copied the image for the web page. Re-reading the material, adding a few more hyperlinks and Harumi's comments, massaging the text to get it to flow better, the page slowly developed. (It grew "thick and rich," as I described it at one point -- I never do "fluff.") On July 12, I announced the now 2-section page to several bonsai forums and Facebook. Through the end of the year Harumi sent me additional comments and critiques until she finished the entire article.
In March 2012 I started another project: a comprehensive list of all plants used in bonsai and the related arts. I started with the previously devised Taxonomic List for Bonsai in Phoenix (first compiled in July 2005), and then seriously expanded it. In September 2012 I debuted it on the Facebook Group of Lindsay Farr's World of Bonsai. The listing has grown and I've had to split it up after the count surpassed 1,000.
Oscar Jonker from bonsaiempire.com approached me via e-mail in December to collaborate with him on answering the question "How Big is Bonsai" in the world. We discussed some of the parameters of the project, compiled data -- mostly from the phoenixbonsai.com site, and he devised the map. The first edition was published April 4, 2013 and included some 104 countries and territories. I compiled data for the United States, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and have submitted that to Oscar. He will be compiling similar info for the European nations.
And the story continues...
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 do have with the World Wide Web are 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 are just endless loops of links to their own and other URLs without providing very much useful information. Not all directories are like this, but there are enough of these space wasters. Same thing with the so-called "link farms" (which have largely faded away by this time). IMHO.