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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 7:29 am 
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Chris Johnston wrote:

On the other hand, if one suggests that only the initiated or properly schooled can understand the mysteries, then there's another problem entirely.

Chris


I agree, let us not flee into the realm of elitism where the fall back response has with it the caveat: You are too ignorant to understand. It is odd that so much effort is going into a description of the simplest of bonsai forms. It is interesting that we cannot get a good solid grip on it. Maybe that's what makes Literati interesting like Gold; we lust after Gold but when you think about it, Gold only has value because we believe it does. Other than that Gold is good for not much other than being pretty and an element of exchange mankind universally accepts as being valuable.

So---after describing what good Literati bonsai look like we have a problem describing how we get from point A to point B. I think we can all agree that the style has its base in the unique nature of its trunk, oddly, so does the driftwood style but both are at opposites ends of the spectrum--- unless they intersect and you come up with a driftwood style Literati. It seems the more we talk about this the more we seem to paint ourselves into a corner.

Chris brought up the differences between Marilyn Monroe and Nicole Kidman, I would put the Literati more into a category with Olive Oil.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:45 am 
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A word mechanic I am not. I try to be a tree mechanic.
To me the literati style is the style that embraces all styles and the only rule of this style is that there are no rules and no real guidelines either.
A literati bonsai should tell a tree story with only a few "brush strokes"
A trunk, branch and a live leaf. In winter the leaf is not necessary with a decidious tree.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:10 am 
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Louis Nel wrote:
To me the literati style is the style that embraces all styles and the only rule of this style is that there are no rules and no real guidelines either..


Please understand I am not trying to be argumentative but in all due respect I have to disagree with this broad brush statement. I can think of one style that the Literati cannot be placed into; the Broom style. The formal upright is borderline if not totally disallowed due to the strict rules placed on trees in the Formal Upright style. understanding that in your assessment, the Literati has no rules or real guidelines I find it difficult to believe that a tree can be a Literati style in a Formal Upright setting.

It seems to me those who would assign an ID to the tree it would have to be either Formal Upright or Literati but not both, even if the Formal Upright were to be very sparse. I base this also on what seems to be at least one of the traits recognized as defining the Literati; that of a trunk with a lot of movement in it. This also would exempt the Formal Upright because the Formal Upright must have a perfectly straight trunk.

Louis Nel wrote:
A literati bonsai should tell a tree story with only a few "brush strokes"
A trunk, branch and a live leaf. In winter the leaf is not necessary with a decidious tree.


I agree with this to a point. It seems that even without a chart of accepted "rules" as we have with the Formal and Informal Upright styles, the breaking of rules seems to follow a pattern; sparse foliage, slender trunk with some movement in it that can go from sublime to extreme, and a round pot or stone slab of some sort. It would also seem that the style is best fitted to conifers because their normal growing conditions in nature would seem to suggest the kind of results environment has imposed on the tree, where flowering and deciduous trees not so much but not necessarily.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:47 am 
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There are many ways in which to classify bonsai. Yoshimura was the first to sit down and organize the styles logically, and ever since most people have just accepted his classification system. I have built on my teacher's system:

One group is by trunk design which includes formal upright style. There is only formal upright trunk design, straight.

Another group is by "feeling" which includes three different "styles" of bonsai: Literati, Windswept and Broom. There is no one form of these three styles. But, there are formal upright, informal upright literati, slanting, cascade, group plantings, rock plantings etc. in the literati feeling.

Some are getting these confused. The formal upright ONLY describes the trunk shape/line. Literati describes the feeling and one can have ANY style with the literati feeling.

Exposed roots are another grouping by focal point. Dead wood is another group of the focal point. Shohin bonsai is by size.

Therefore one can have a cascade style (by trunk design), exposed root (by focal point), with deadwood (by focal point), literati style bonsai. Each of these terms describes something different. Unfortunately most people do not understand these terms and try to collectively "lump" them together.

Just my thoughts this morning...

Bill


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 1:39 pm 
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Last edited by Richard Patefield on Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:03 pm 
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William N. Valavanis wrote:
There are many ways in which to classify bonsai. Yoshimura was the first to sit down and organize the styles logically, and ever since most people have just accepted his classification system. I have built on my teacher's system:

One group is by trunk design which includes formal upright style. There is only formal upright trunk design, straight.

Another group is by "feeling" which includes three different "styles" of bonsai: Literati, Windswept and Broom. There is no one form of these three styles. But, there are formal upright, informal upright literati, slanting, cascade, group plantings, rock plantings etc. in the literati feeling.

Some are getting these confused. The formal upright ONLY describes the trunk shape/line. Literati describes the feeling and one can have ANY style with the literati feeling.

Exposed roots are another grouping by focal point. Dead wood is another group of the focal point. Shohin bonsai is by size.

Therefore one can have a cascade style (by trunk design), exposed root (by focal point), with deadwood (by focal point), literati style bonsai. Each of these terms describes something different. Unfortunately most people do not understand these terms and try to collectively "lump" them together.

Just my thoughts this morning...

Bill


This is the most comprehensive classification that I've seen so far, and should clear up most of the confusion.

Trunk design, focal point, and feeling.
The first two are based on strict formal requirements - more in line with what we calle "rules" . A slanting tree has to slant, a cascade tree has to cascade, a formal upright has to be straight, these are rules, with no exceptions.
The third group is akin to what I would call "style". Any form can be made in the literati "style", even the formal upright one. And, in accordance with what Bill said, any form can be made into windswept style.

And, regarding the discussion before, I totally disagree that a literati style has to be feminine. It can just as well be masculine: a trunk line with jagged, strong movements (zig-zag) is very masculine in nature. A trunk line with soft curves is feminine in nature. Literati can be both. I do agree, however, that most of the literati trees are feminine.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:26 pm 
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Attila Soos wrote:
And, regarding the discussion before, I totally disagree that a literati style has to be feminine. It can just as well be masculine: a trunk line with jagged, strong movements (zig-zag) is very masculine in nature. A trunk line with soft curves is feminine in nature. Literati can be both. I do agree, however, that most of the literati trees are feminine.


In theory this sounds feasible, however in reality, I have been unable to find a single example of a masculine literati. Is there an example I missed that you are basing your conclusion on?


Will


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Wed Nov 12, 2008 11:45 pm 
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Will Heath wrote:
... I have been unable to find a single example of a masculine literati...


Try this:
http://www.colinlewisbonsai.com/gallery ... ine-1.html
Colin


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:05 am 
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Last edited by Richard Patefield on Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:21 am 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Will Heath wrote:
... I have been unable to find a single example of a masculine literati...


Try this:
http://www.colinlewisbonsai.com/gallery ... ine-1.html
Colin


Very nice tree Colin.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:29 am 
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Richard Patefield wrote:
Using masculine/feminine doesn't move us forward.

The qualities attributed to each are vague and various. This cripples them for communicating across languages and cultural boundaries, and at different times in history.


I agree, but in the world of bonsai the terms of feminine and masculine have been used for years to define and describe bonsai. In fact a good percentage of the terms applied to all bonsai, Wabi Sabi, Yeng and Yang, Kami, Peace and so on are vague and esoteric in application, calling on the viewer to ascribe a reaction through feelings, not a judgement through reason.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:27 am 
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Last edited by Richard Patefield on Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:16 am 
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Richard Patefield wrote:
Vance Wood wrote:
the terms of feminine and masculine have been used for years to define and describe bonsai.


This is of course true, but this fact alone is not a reason to continue doing so, nor should it stop us from identifying the shortcomings of these terms or looking for better ways to communicate what we mean.


Vance Wood wrote:
Wabi Sabi, Yeng and Yang, Kami, Peace and so on are vague and esoteric in application,


Again this has not stopped scholars from examining these words and the concepts behind them, have a look here on Kami, for example.

Evolution of the Concept of Kami - http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/cpjr/kami/ito.html

Perspectives toward Understanding the Concept of Kami - http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/cpjr/kami/intro.html

Immanent Legitimation: Reflections on the "Kami Concept" - http://www2.kokugakuin.ac.jp/ijcc/wp/cp ... avens.html

These three articles are from one issue of one journal produced by one university, but they are part of a whole field of study into these matters.

If you are saying we can't study them or they are not open to study, this is just plain wrong - people are doing it.


I'm not saying that at all, I am merely pointing out the fact that much of what we think and say about bonsai, beyond things like branch placement, etc. falls into the category of esoteric understanding. It is again odd in a discussion about the Literati form, understanding that rules and guidelines seem to be lacking, all we have left at this point are concepts that are more philosophic than objective. But maybe it is a fitting state of affairs considering that most look on the Literati style as a work of fantasy.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 11:55 am 
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Richard Patefield wrote:
Using masculine/feminine doesn't move us forward.

The qualities attributed to each are vague and various. This cripples them for communicating across languages and cultural boundaries, and at different times in history.



Richard,
All words are open to a degree of interpretation, even when used literally (Chris's reference to Monroe, Kidman, etc). Since we are forced to employ metaphors here, that possibility is certainly magnified. Metaphors, by their nature, require the audience to use imagination. However, I would bet my grandmother's boots that the overwhelming majority of people, bonsaiists or not, would have a sufficient comprehension of the terms masculine and feminine when used to describe the attributes of a tree for that term to be valid. The problem lies not in the words but in the inability of a very few people, if any, to interpret the metaphor as intended.

As Bill indicated, much of the understanding of what constitutes a literati is the 'feel' of the tree. This can only be defined loosely, and by using a variety of metaphors attacking the problem from different angles until the audience becomes aware of how those metaphors apply. This cannot be done without visual reference to the object being described; any attempt to write a no doubt convoluted and sleep-inducing verbal description without visual references would be futile. One's first language is learned mainly through common usage - hearing the word and seeing the object being described, and so it must be when attempting to convey abstract concepts such as the 'feel' of a tree. In other words, one must learn the language - the tree offering the contextual definition of the metaphor.

Perhaps it's not the metaphors masculine and feminine that are preventing us moving forward, but your reluctance to accept them as valid. They are the best words we have and have been in common usage for at least the thirty-five years I have been involved in bonsai, so unless better ones can be offered they should continue to be used in the knowledge that they are fully comprehended by most, and can easily be learned by the rest.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2008 12:30 pm 
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Last edited by Richard Patefield on Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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