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Bring nature back home. This is what the Chinese have tried to achieve in carefully designing their gardens. The garden is a man-made version of nature miniaturized on a patch of land.
Penjing, or Pengzai, the miniaturised reproduction of nature.
Compare the penjing landscape (left) with a true photo taken at Mt. Huangshan (right).

The Chinese further miniaturized nature into a container. The art is known as Penjing 盆景 or Penzai 盆栽, creating a miniature and more interesting reproduction of a natural scene with stunted trees and plants, rocks, and sometimes water.

Penjin is a fairly common sight in China – in parks, galleries, reception rooms, public squares, etc. In the Humble Administrator's Garden, a whole courtyard is dedicated for arraying these potted plants.

Common plants used in penzai include pines, cypresses, wintersweets, elms and bamboos, which with small leaves and thin branches, grow slowly but appear vigorous. The branches are often made to stretch in certain forms, looking like running beasts, soaring birds, beasts, etc, adding interest to the created scene. As the miniature plants grow slowly, it usually takes painfully long years until it takes the form wanted by the designer.

Other elements used in miniature landscapes might be rocks and tree roots. It would be better to have roots crossed or tangled. And heavily knotted roots are sought after as it suggests character and age in a tree. Some penjing contains solely rocks, which have been carefully chosen, cut and carved in certain inspiring shapes. Rocks stand for mountains. Green moss grows on the rock surface, just like the plantation to a mountain.. Miniature trees are also commonly seen standing in a crevice of the rock.

Some designers would decorate the penjing with little pagodas, bridges and pavilions, or even tiny boats on the water below the “mountain”, completing an enchanting landscape.



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