Unlike bonsai, penjing is more rugged and the art of dwarfing this tree is the ancestor of bonsai which originated in China around the 7th century, long before bonsai (13th century).
Penjing is an ancient Chinese art where trees are planted in shallow containers. The trees are stunted with a shape resembling a real tree in the wild, from the shape of the trunk, twigs, to the arrangement of leaves.
Making a proportional penjing requires skill and care, the Chinese created a penjing based on the initial rules and have not changed it until now. Penjing forms vary widely and may be difficult to distinguish.
If you are planning to build a penjing, prepare some of the requirements commonly used in penjing, including a wide shallow container (penjing pot), mountain rocks (suiseki), and a suitable tree species.
In this post Names of Trees will only share information on the types of trees that are suitable for making penjing, and do not describe more fully penjing pots and suiseki stones.
What types of trees do the Chinese use to make penjing? Here is the list:
1. Chinese Persimmon (Diospyros sp.)
Chinese Persimmon is the tree species most often used to make penjing. The tree itself comes from China and produces orange fruit and dark black stems.
The persimmon tree is called Shi (柿) in Chinese, Kaki (柿) in Japanese, and Gam (감) in Korean.
BENEFITS OF PERSIMMONS
Throughout Asia, persimmons are considered a fruit with natural medicinal properties. This fruit is said to help fight stomach ailments and diarrhea. Raw fruit juice is said to lower blood pressure.
PERSIMMON IN TRUST
The vase decorated with cakes made of persimmons, pine branches and oranges is a symbol of the wish for “great happiness in 100 affairs.”
Because the Chinese people from ancient times have used the Chinese Persimmon tree, now the Chinese Persimmon tree is becoming popular all over the world and is widely cultivated for penjing and bonsai purposes.
2. Banyan (Ficus sp.)
As we know, Banyan or Ficus is the most common type of tree used as a bonsai throughout the world, as well as penjing. Banyan is widely used as a tree subject with the typical Chinese penjing planting style such as roots wrapped around rocks, trees climbing rocks, even with the old tree style.
With beautiful roots and physically strong trees, Banyan is chosen by many contemporary penjing artists for these two reasons. Some of the Ficus species used in the manufacture of penjing are Ficus microcarpa (and its varieties such as ‘Long island’ and ‘Green island’, excluding Ficus retusa), and Ficus benjamina.
3. Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Punica granatum is a fruit-producing tree known as Pomegranate. There are several varieties and cultivars of Pomegranate that are deliberately cultivated to harvest the fruit or enjoy the beauty of the flowers.
Pomegranate is a tree that is valued in China for its benefits and history.
HISTORY OF POMEGRANATE TREE IN CHINA
The pomegranate tree was introduced to China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC).
In ancient China, the pomegranate was considered a symbol of fertility. This symbolism is a pun on the Chinese character 子 (zǐ) meaning seed, also meaning “offspring” so a fruit containing so many seeds is a sign of fertility.
Ripe pomegranates that are split open with visible seeds are often hung in Chinese homes because they are believed to give fertility and bless a dwelling with many offspring. This is an important and traditional aspect of Chinese culture.
4. Buddhist Pine (Podocarpus sp.)
Buddhist pine is a slow-growing conifer tree. The tree is widely cultivated as a garden ornamental tree and penjing.
In Japan, the Buddhist pine tree is referred to as Kusamaki and Inumaki. In China, it is known as Luóhàn Sōng, Qiansong Fir, Xianbai, Luo Hanbai, Jiangnanbai, and Arhat Pine. Several Podocarpus species have been selected for use as penjing including Podocarpus macrophyllus.
5. Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
Chinese Elm is a deciduous tree species with small leaves and beautiful colors in the fall. Because the leaves can become very small, Chinese elm is widely used as an ornamental tree in pots such as bonsai and penjing.
Chinese elm is valued as a solitary tree in culture for its beautiful shape and decorative bark. In addition, this species is relatively resistant to elm dieback.
The Chinese elm is very similar to the Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila). The distinguishing features are smaller, shorter stems and toothed leaves in Chinese elm, whereas Siberian elm is double toothed. In addition, the flowering period of Siberian elm is much earlier.
6. Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis)
Chinese Juniper is an evergreen conifer tree that is mostly planted around temples and in East Asian-style gardens. The tree has smooth leaves (depending on the variety) and is long-lived.
This tree is also widely cultivated specifically for bonsai and penjing throughout the world, especially in Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan.
There are at least four varieties that are popularly used in penjing and bonsai, including:
- Juniperus chinensis var. chinensis – A form of a shrub or upright tree, native to China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Myanmar.
- Juniperus chinensis var. sargentii – Native to northeastern China, Russian Far East, Korea, and Japan.
- Juniperus chinensis var. taiwanensis – This variety is endemic to Taiwan.
- Juniperus chinensis var. tsukusiensis – Native to the island of Yakushima and some other places in Japan.
7. Chinese White Pine (Pinus armandii)
Chinese white pine in Chinese is known as Mount Hua Pine (华山松). This tree has long been used as a penjing subject in China.
This tree has a lot of history and is associated with beliefs in China.
CHINESE WHITE PINE IN TRUST
Chinese white pine is considered by the Chinese as a symbol of longevity and immortality.
Shouxing, the Chinese god of longevity (寿星), is usually depicted standing under a pine tree, while a red-headed crane (Grus japonensis) perches on a tree branch. In the traditional image “happiness, honor and long life” (福禄寿三星).
8. Chinese Box (Murraya paniculata)
Chinese box or Orange jasmine is a tree species native to South and Southeast Asia, China, and Australasia. The tree is cultivated as an ornamental tree because it produces orange to bright red fruit and very fragrant flowers all year round.
Chinese box is also a tree that is tolerant of various types of soil, drought resistance, and adaptability.
This tree is used in bonsai and penjing because of its bright white bark and small leaves, making it very decorative.