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Mini Porcelain 4

A Hawthorn Shohin from the Matsudaira family


Hawthorn, Crataegus cuneata. Height: 16 cm (6.2 in) - age: ca. 120 years


The tree presented here is being cultivated in a very small pot and is about 120 years old. Currently it is owned by master Hirose. For some time it was owned by the Matsudaira family whose plants are considered the oldest and finest shohin bonsai in Japan. The style of these trees is eminently Japanese.



The pot's painting, too, is typically Japanese.


These shohin are quite remote from the Chinese taste, they have an aristocratic aura and are full of refined elegance, progressiveness and naturalness. This expresses the aesthetic principle of Sabi (age, serenity, mildness and melancholy). As famous as the shohin bonsai of the Matsudaira family are, only few people ever had the opportunity to admire them in person. They are rarely shown on exhibitions or even in bonsai magazines. It was a Daimyo (count) from that family, Yorinaga Matsudaira (1875 - 1944), who established the collection. He is said to have had many other interests besides bonsai and was well versed in Haiku, calligraphy, painting and Noh theatre. Yorinaga cared personally for his trees, and after his death, his wife took over their maintenance. His writings can be regarded as fundamental ones on the art of bonsai. His books are still worth reading today since they are open to future development.



This photograph shows Yorinaga Matsudaira with some of his shohin bonsai and pots.
Image from May 1934 issue of Bonsai magazine, per William N. Valavanis in e-mails to RJB for


Matsudairas at Kokufu 

In 1934, Matsudaira was elected the first president of the newly founded “Kokufu Bonsai Association (later renamed to “Nippon Bonsai Association). This photograph shows the Matsudairas at the first Kokufu-Ten in 1934. Image per William N. Valavanis in e-mail to RJB for



The article and the photographs of the hawthorn bonsai were kindly provided by BONSAI ART (Vol. 58, 2003).

Additional photographs of Matsudaira and his wife were kindly provided by William N. Valavanis and Robert J. Baran.


Translation: Stefan Ulrich

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