Penjing in Hong Kong (Part 2) – Unconventional Penjing in a Daoist Monastery

The next penjing garden we visited was in a Daoist monastry, Qingsong Guan (青松观) or Ching Chung Koon in Cantonese dialect used in Hong Kong. It is located a little out-of-the-way in Tuen Mun (新界屯门) in the New Territory area. The late abbot, Mr. Hou Baoyuan (候宝垣 1914-1999) was one of the early pioneers of Lingnan penjing. As a Daoist monk, his penjing were steeped into his philosophical thoughts and believes, they are unpretentious and follow the Daoist Way of harmonizing with nature. His penjing also tell stories and have distinct personalities. Their compositions are not from the typical old school teaching.

Instead of showing photos of penjing after penjing, I am going to select a few and describe my impressions the way I saw them.

A Twin-Trunk that Broke the Rules

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Twin-trunk Chinese Hackberry

When we make a twin-trunk bonsai or penjing, we are taught to place the two trees, one large and one small, close to each other like a mother and child. Who would have ever thought of planting two large trees at opposite ends of a pot? Oh no, that would be breaking the rules! Yes, Abbot Hou did just that and he did it very well.

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This bushy fierce looking Shiwan figurine is Zhong Kui (钟馗) with his sword, an evil slayer in Chinese mythology.

He approached this creation by envisioning the viewer is inside a forest, facing two large trees at close range. Don’t we often encounter such a familiar setting when we take a walk in a mature woods or an old forest? To reach for light, trees in old growths grow straight up to the top, the canopies do not overlap but just away from each other. That type of canopy does not allow much light into the interior, competitive smaller trees eventually die off. So the tall trees tend to be a little apart from each other, and without much penetrating light they do not have low branches Continue reading