The Hwa Fong Show is the most prestigious bonsai show in Taiwan. It is held once a year in November. Exhibited trees went through rigorous selections and this is where one can see some of the highest quality Taiwan bonsai in one place. This year’s 22nd annual show was jointly held with the 14th Bonsai Club International (BCI) Asia-Pacific Bonsai and Viewing Stone Convention from November 4-6. My last visit to Taiwan was eight years ago. With this major show, Professor Amy Liang’s invitation to attend the opening ceremony and banquet of her bonsai garden, “The Purple Garden”, opportunities to meet old friends and several Facebook friends for the first time, and shopping for bonsai accessories, especially bonsai stands; my wife and I decided to take a two-week Taiwan bonsai journey.
The exquisitely dressed Professor Amy Liang in purple, her favorite color, during the opening ceremony of her “Purple Garden”. More about it in a future post.
Met Facebook friend, Mr. Chun Sheng Chen (陳春生), for the first time at the opening of the Purple Garden. Mr. Chen conducts bonsai classes in Taipei, and helps out at Professor Amy Liang’s garden. He has a lot of good looking shohin!
My wife with Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Chong (張珺理), met also for the first time after being friends for 2-3 year on Facebook.
Hwa Fong Show 華風展
- A 2014 Grand Champion Podocarpus costalis greeted visitors of the entrance of the exhibition venue. The tree was 80 cm tall.
The Hwa Fong Show is held in the Xizhou Park (溪州公園) of Changhua county, in the central part of Taiwan. Although it is close to many horticultural production centers, landscaping and bonsai nurseries etc., it is not so easy to get there without a car. It is even harder for foreign visitors to get to the park without knowing which train and bus to take, which left the only option of taking the BCI convention buses. However, wait time and an hour journey, each way, from the Taichung convention venue to the exhibit limit the amount of time one could spend at the exhibition hall. Though not familiar with Taiwan, since we speak Chinese we decided to take train and taxi on our own so we could stay as long as we want to.
Travelling by trains in Taiwan is convenient and they are on time. We bought a prepaid card and could go anywhere by subway, bus or train by swiping it at the turnstile. We took the 8:04 a.m. train, got out the nearest station and took a taxi to the exhibition venue. No traffic jam in the morning rush hours.
Several large trees were brought in from various nurseries to the park for the bonsai show. This one is a Podocarpus, a landscape tree in a very large cement pot.
Entrance of the exhibition hall. It is very big. I think it is at least the size of two football fields.
Afternoon of the opening day, a Saturday, was filled with people. It was hard to see the trees or take photos without people crossing in front of you. We decided to come back on a weekday, Wednesday, when there were fewer general public; and we could enjoy the trees leisurely, talk to people on duty and with one of the judges who kindly explained merits of the winning trees.
By afternoon, the crowd was so huge that it was difficult to closely examine individual tree leisurely.
I took a lot of photos, too many to show in one blog. So I decided to first show the winning trees, and will post more photos in Part 2 of the blog. People on Facebook might have seen these trees posted by various people. I generally do not post while travelling, too tired after walking and standing for the whole day, just want to enjoy a good dinner and beer, then go to sleep.
Dinner at the Fushan Japanese Restaurant in Changhua. Excellent and very fresh sashimi of yellow tail, tuna, salmon and amberjack. We asked for the fatty belly portions.
The show awarded one Grand Champion and ten Superior Awards. Two shohin group displays were among the winners.
This is the Grand Champion tree, a 90-year old Ficus microcarpa:
- A 90-year old Ficus microcarpa won the Grand Champion. Owner: Hsieh Gui-Zi (謝貴子) of Tainan City Bonsai Society.
This Ficus microcarpa won the Superior Award:
What made the first tree won the coveted Grand Championship while the second tree a Superior Award?
This is when one would appreciate having unhurried ample time on your own, it pays. I was able to talk with Mr. Huang Shi-Shan (黃泗山), one of the judges and popped him this question. Mr. Huang brought me back and forth between the two trees and explained the subtle details between the two Ficus.
First the nebari. The Grand Champion is on the left in the below photo. Rootage distribution is better than the tree on the right; though both have flared roots, the first one has finer and more natural tapering distribution merging into the ground gradually instead of ending abruptly. The fused younger aerial roots on the right side of its trunk is more interesting, a little messier but a more natural look of an old ficus in nature, whereas the aerial roots formation of the second tree is more even with a feel of man-made manipulations.
One can also see the left side of the Grand Champion tree trunk just below the left primary branch was reduced to give a slight taper than the second tree. Although it left a large, not yet healed scar, it did not detract the overall appearance of the trunk taper. Fattening of main trunk is a problem in old Ficus bonsai. One has to carve out part of the trunk to maintain the taper, not too much nor too little. They call this maintenance step, “slimming the waistline”. In the second tree, the abrupt change in the left side trunk formed by large aerial roots made the tree less natural than the first one.
Not seen in these two-dimensional photos, the branch movements of the first tree are more natural than the second tree, with up and down, back and forth movements, which are features of an old ficus in nature. The leaf size distributions were very even and dark green in the first tree, which is hard to achieve. The overall look is a more powerful healthy old tree.
This Grand Champion Ficus only won a second prize in the Tainan City Bonsai Show in October, and yet it is the best of this show. Why? Mr. Huang explained it is the display. In this show, trees were spaced further apart which brought out the look of a large old ficus while in the Tainan show, the space was smaller and more crowded with other trees, which did not allow the tree to show its grandiose.
Enough discussions on these two winners. I will show the rest of the winners.
Juniperus chinensis by Chen Ding-Hwa of Shinpei City Bonsai and Stone Art Society.
Juniperus chinensis by Chen Chong-Bai
Buxus harlandii by Hwang Shi-Shan
Pinus morrisonicola, Taiwan Five-Needle Pine
Shohin winners, both were seven-point displays. I will also show photos of the individual trees.
Shohin Winner # 2:
This is a Chinese Jingdezhen pot commissioned by Xingrongyi, a bonsai nursery in Taiwan.