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Ho Hsien Ku


Ho Hsien-Ku, one of the Eight Immortals, is a fairy. The legend says that one day she was so tired that she took off her shoes and stockings. When the other seven saw her indecency they were shocked and ran away. One green stocking was left hanging on a lychee twig. From this time on the Chinese use the phrase to hang up the green. The colour green represents life and is a symbol for the season of spring. Green also stands for the highest inner peace and if the colour occurs in a dream it promises a happy ending of that dream.

In the Asian world colours have a strong symbolic relevance for the art of bonsai, especially in China. The western bonsai art is an adaption and copying of the Asian techniques. This seems two-dimensional for me as I miss the development of the third dimension, the depth. This depth is the connection between man and nature. It is the intentional consolidation and merging of all the things, feelings and thoughts that surround me all day. For example the shape of a tree and its aura, memories of the trees of my childhood or the house- and family-trees are related to the sentiment of the moment. Everything is connected and in unison. The strong focus on bonsai techniques interferes with the depth of the bonsai art. The techniques belong to the basis but all the other facets must be developed as well, such as the symbolism of colours, aesthetics and visual feelings like warm and cold, rough or soft, coarse or delicate.

Bonsai pots can symbolize the forest ground, a rock, a lake or the sea. Green pots remind us of moss and lichen, blue ones represent water and the sky while grey pots look like stones and rocks. The third dimension is only added by our spirit, our thinking  and feeling. All these components together create a vivid, deep impression.

The pots presented in this article are all glazed green, blue-green or turquoise and nearly all of them were made in China. Japanese bonsai artists have classified the Chinese pots. One of the most well-known pot types comes from a place in China which is called KOCHI in Japan. The term for glazed pots is “KUSURO MONO”. Kochi-pots are classified as SHIRO-KOCHI = white, KINA-KOCHI = yellow, AO-KOCHI = blue and SHIKI-SAI-KOCHI = several colours (see John Y. Naka, volume 2).

Chinese pots are often not marked or signed so that it is not possible to know the exact location where they were made or the potter who created them. Many of these pots were shipped to big gouvernment trade centers and then sold at home and abroad. One example are the FUKIEN-potteries in the Fukien province. They are famous for their glazed pots. The kantonese pots have famous blue and green glazes. Those potteries are located in KUANGCHOU and in the Kwantung province. Then there are the NANBAN pots. They are from the area of Xiamen at the south shore of China.

The Penjing pot shown on the picture above (with a tree in it) is about 100-150 years old. The almost rustic pot is fascinating because of its archaic look. The formerly bright green glaze has disintegrated from the inside under the influence of fertilizer and water. This is an unmistakable sign for an old age. It is impossible to create such a patina artificially. (For me this pot's title would be “Fog on a Mountain Side”). Many old green pots were not extensively used. Their glaze has not altered much and it is very difficult to determine their age. The other pots shown on the pictures are for your free individual enjoyment.

Please note the artistic ornamental drainage holes.

Peter Krebs

Photograph No. 1 (Penjing pot with tree) by Josef Wiegand.
All other photographs by BONSAI ART.
This article was published in the german bonsai magazine “BONSAI ART”.

Translation: Heike van Gunst

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