Feature Article

Displaying Shohin Bonsai: The Rack and Placement of the Trees

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By Text and illustrations by Morten Albek (C)
Based on the guidance of Higuchi Takeshi.

In light of the recent completion of our first annual display contest, we are pleased to present a trio of articles by Morten Albek on display. In this one, Morten gives us the basics for placing Shohin on a stand made for multiple bonsai.

Morten Albek is an important presence in the bonsai community, his accomplishments in the art of bonsai are rivaled by very few others, his energy and willingness to share his knowledge truly makes him a leader in the art. AoB is proud to feature a gallery of some of his work "The Accent Plants of Morten Albek", "The Shohin Bonsai of Morten Albek", and an on-line interview with this artist that can be read here. Morten's personal web site at Shohin-europe.com is one of the most referenced siites on the web.

Standard Formal Rack

The above illustration shows a standard rack for displaying Shohin Bonsai. The rack is called Nanaten Tanakazari in Japanese.

Four Parts

The rack is divided into four parts: Tenba (top of rack), Chudan (middle), Gedan (bottom) and Maeoki or Hanedashi (sub stage).

Seven Elements

There are seven positions to place the elements.

To obtain harmony of the whole display, the seven elements are a necessity.

Don't use any equal species twice in the display. Also the style and the color of the pot may not be the same one.

The species and their style and color, their fruit and their size has to differ, in order to make a well balanced and beautiful display.

The Main Tree: Shuboku

This is the most important tree of the display. It is therefore placed on top of the rack, tenba. Because it is viewed best, at this position where it is in eye level of the viewer.

At this position it is also easy to obtain the good and bad parts of the tree, and therefore the best tree is placed here.

Assistant Tree: Fukuboku

At the sub stage the tree that emphasizes the main tree is placed.

It is important to use a tree, which has a good movement.

Assistant, Supporter: Soe

Smallest tree to bee used on the display is the supporter planting.

Other Elements

It is possible to replace one of the secondary trees with an ornament or Suiseki. Only the main tree and the assistant tree must not be replaced.

In this example, it is 2,3,4,5 and 7 position at the bottom illustration you can replace.


Judging the trees is mainly focused on well balance and the beautifulness of the whole display.

As in bonsai in general, examining the growing control techniques and training techniques, is always very important.

Standard Formal Rack

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Profile: Morten Albek