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 Post subject: Profile: Min Hsuan Lo
PostPosted: Sat Nov 04, 2006 8:42 pm 
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Profile: Min Hsuan Lo

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Min Hsuan Lo received the grand prize of the JAL World Bonsai Contest in 1999 and he has won several other honors since. He was one of the headliners at BCI 2004 in Taiwan and has traveled to Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, India, and U.S.A. He looks forward to more trips abroad to share his knowledge and to also learn more about bonsai in other countries.

LO was born in 1956 in Central Bonsai Garden. The family bonsai nursery was built by his father in 1947. As a child LO was at his father's side learning the art of bonsai. After graduating from the University of TAM KANG in Taiwan where he studied Chinese Literature, LO returned home to learn more about bonsai, not only from his father but also from every master in Taiwan.

He began teaching bonsai in Taiwan in 1992. In 2001 he started bonsai in Ken Kuo Technical University and in 2004, he become the bonsai teacher at Pei Tou Community University.

Min Hsuan Lo's personal blog can be seen at http://www.knowledgeofbonsai.org/min_hsuan_lo/index.php
The following is an online interview with Min Hsuan Lo:
Bonsai and photographs by Min Hsuan Lo

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AoB: A second generation bonsai artist is a rare thing in America, can you tell us what it was like growing up in a bonsai household?

Min Hsuan Lo: It was a very pleasant childhood for me. When I was a child I was happy at learning Bonsai from my father. Since I was eight I helped my big brother to water the plants. By ten I started learning to trim the leaves. When I was twelve my father taught me the basic technique for wiring plants. I left home for high school and university, however I missed all the little plants at home. I often went home on weekends to learn. My learning processes are more brilliant than others . I thank my parents with great devotion for providing me the wealthy environment and I am honored to be a member of the Bonsai family.


AoB: Considering that in the past bonsai knowledge was passed down from father to son, do you believe that the learning environment at home for bonsai is something that has been lacking in bonsai over the last century and do the results we see today reflect this?

Min Hsuan Lo: In fact, it is not easy to pass generations for Bonsai business. I have 5 brothers and sisters. I am the only one who is interested in Bonsai. I don't know if my two children would like to inherit our family business or not. It is not enough to just learn at home to be able to become a successful Bonsai Master. After I graduated from university, I tried to learn from famous masters everywhere and joined any kinds of seminars to learn the strength from others. Those became my philosophy of Bonsai.


AoB: What important lessons concerning bonsai did you learn from your father?

Min Hsuan Lo: Endurance / Patience.


AoB: Could you tell us more about your father and his involvement with bonsai?

Min Hsuan Lo: My father will turn 80 years old this year. He has accepted Japanese education. You can see the ancient Japanese spirit and culture from his words and deeds. My father was very interested in Bonsai when he was a child. He taught at elementary school when he was 18. After World War II, he led many of elementary school teachers in Tianwei to plant Bonsai, it became the foundation of the most characteristic Bonsai County in Taiwan. 36 years ago he founded the Tianwei Bonsai Association and worked as a president. My father was very successfully planting Chinese Junipers, Ficus, and deciduous trees. There are many trees, I kept from my father, in my garden.


AoB: What is the bonsai community like in Taiwan? Is bonsai practiced and respected as an art form by many people there?

Min Hsuan Lo: There are about 40 Bonsai Associations in Taiwan. The Five National Bonsai Associations are as follows:
(1). Chang Hua Bonsai; Suiseki & Old pottery Association
(2). Taiwan Bonsai; Creator Association
(3). Far Fong Bonsai Association
(4). Chang Hua Ficus Bonsai Association
(5). Ya Fong ( Mini-size) Bonsai Association
Only the works from the real Masters are treated as ART.


AoB: Taiwan is part of the Chinese culture. And yet, bonsai from Taiwan look different from the ones we see in Chinese penjing books. What is the reason behind this difference?

Min Hsuan Lo: Taiwan was dominated by different countries and cultures for a few hundred years, especially dominated for 50 years by Japanese. With edification by multi-culture and the environment for unique plants, it became the remarkable conformation of Bonsai for Taiwan.


AoB: Taiwan is a small island, so obviously the potential for collecting material from the wild is very limited. How does the Taiwanese bonsai community overcome the lack of collected material?

Min Hsuan Lo: We are lacking the collection of raw material, however we imported great quantities of materials from the Philippines 10 years ago to fill the needs. The most important thing is, we have the highest level of planting culture and technique in Taiwan. Our works (from seed, cut) already exceed the collecting trend. For example : Ficus,Chinese Juniper, Premna are the most outstanding life creations.


AoB: It looks like China is in the process of becoming a much more open society. Visitors can travel freely in the country. How will this benefit the bonsai in Taiwan?

Min Hsuan Lo: These years, there are many huge and cheap Bonsais imported to China from Taiwan. This is helpful for some Bonsai businesses in this low business boom. When the Chinese mainland can freely visit Taiwan, maybe they can purchase high quality and expensive Bonsai.

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AoB: It's easy to notice that the exhibits in Taiwan prefer large bonsai. Why is that? Do you think that smaller bonsai will become more popular in the future?

Min Hsuan Lo: It is a mistake and will extremely hurt the development of Bonsai for partially large-scale of Taiwan Bonsai. The ergonomics of middle-size Bonsai would be valuable for everyone.


AoB: You are known to design bonsai in a naturalistic style, something that is rapidly gaining acceptance in the bonsai community. Could you tell us more about this and why you prefer this over the more traditional styles?

Min Hsuan Lo: I have planted too many traditional Bonsais when I was young. Nearly 16 years ago I found the traditional bonsais are just a seasonal work. All the hard working could not bring too much happiness to me. I almost gave up my Bonsai . So I tried to get some ideas from nature, and the deep of Chinese culture. After a few years of hard trying I finally found the new direction and create brilliant colorful works. The inspirations came out like spring and my works had more progressed. I found the confidence and happiness again.


AoB: Many people mistakenly believe that designing a naturalistic bonsai is less work than a traditionally styled bonsai, in fact many believe that a naturalistic bonsai involves little else than letting the bonsai grow wild. Would you explain to our readers the process involved to create a tree that only appears to be untouched by human hands?

Min Hsuan Lo: In fact, it is very difficult and complicated to create nature bonsai. First, you need to understand the trees from mother nature in your mind, then combine the human kind and nature, using your humble mind, find the character from an old huge tree, then you are qualified for creating nature bonsai.

We all need to arrange and design the direction of the branch, the ratio of each branches and the thinking of whole structure in the creation process. You cannot leave any man-made mark in the work. The beau ideal comes from: "... tree is small, form & spirit is huge, un-limited imagination". Therefore, the real nature trees are choreographed over a long time. They are not short-term instant bonsai.


AoB: You were a top prize winner in the Chinese Bonsai Artists Association for several years. Could you tell us about this association and the honor of being a winner there?

Min Hsuan Lo: The English name of this association is T.B.C.A (Taiwan Bonsai Creator Association), which I founded with my friends in 1997. The main purpose of this association is to let professional bonsai masters have a stage to show their creations. Each work should be their own creation and they need to have pictures proving the process. To become a member, you have to be tested. There are about 120 members now. To become a committee member, you have to accumulate enough points and experience, then you are also qualified to be elected as a chairperson. T.B.C.A (Taiwan Bonsai Creator Association) is highly respected by everyone in Taiwan. Each bonsai master is honored to be a member of this association.

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AoB: It has been said that you achieve nearly a 100% success rate with your new grafting technique which involves the use of rice paper to secure and cover free grafts. Could you tell us more about this incredible technique?

Min Hsuan Lo: Rice paper is used in pear grafting. A few years ago, it was used in bonsai, too. It has greatly helped grafting because of the convenience, time saving and high ratio of living. As long as we tap into the growing season you can get breath-taking results. All the trees (except the pine trees) gained great results for the subtropical of Taiwan.


AoB: At a recent BCI tour in Taiwan, you demonstrated this new graft technique, how was it accepted?

Min Hsuan Lo: In Taiwan, rice paper has almost replaced all the Grafting techniques. I introduced this technique to South Africa in 2004 and India in 2005. They got great experimental results in these two countries.


AoB: Your Chinese Pistache took the grand prize in the 1999 JAL World Bonsai Contest, this was quite an honor. Did you expect such a victory and how is the bonsai doing today?

Min Hsuan Lo: This is a chance by accident: I thought that Bonsai is the only culture for Japan, Taiwan, China and other Asian countries. After I won a prize, I got to know bonsai lovers from all over the world. That opened my view and understanding to the philosophy of bonsai. My prize awarded tree is in good shape and older than before. So I welcome all bonsai lovers from all over the world coming to my garden to share the experience and inspiration of this tree.


AoB: We noticed that the ficus bonsai created by you have branches with lots of vertical curves. The branch moves upward first, then curves downward, and so on. Traditionally, branches of bonsai have horizontal curves. How do you explain these vertical curves?

Min Hsuan Lo: What is called "Lo's style" is the nature old tree came from the field combined with the beauty line from the Chinese calligraphy, and life philosophy of Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu)-, a Chinese philosopher. I think the traditional horizontal curves are just a commonplace bonsai. It doesn't have the typical tree appearance. Ficus is a very strong and huge tree, each branch will grow up and grow to a certain amount, the branches become horizontal then the branches will droop following its gravity. If it continues to droop, then the branches might die. Therefore, the tree will continue to grow up and continue to grow horizontally and droop, then circle of reborn, the branches continue to change and become vertical curves. Then what appears is the old huge trees of Banyan.

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AoB: Can you share a little of your personal philosophy when creating a bonsai? Do you have some basic principles that you are trying to follow?

Min Hsuan Lo: To create the Bonsai, the value is to follow nature, the beauty is the nature's beauty, there is no man-made artificial look, the marvel is the empty mind, and in no way one can explain the beauty.
Constantly creation, enjoying the creation is my only basic principle.


AoB: Is it important to you that your trees look different from trees of other bonsai artists?

Min Hsuan Lo: Yes, I think the Bonsai Masters must have their strong personal character and style.


AoB: Which country would you select as your favorite bonsai community, beside your own country?

Min Hsuan Lo: The perfection of Japanese Bonsai culture, the great country of America and the simplicity and the wilderness beauty of South Africa are my favorite Bonsai countries.


AoB: What is the most important principle that you want your students to follow?

Min Hsuan Lo: Endurance, constantly learning and braving new things.


AoB: Which bonsai artists do you most enjoy the work of?

Min Hsuan Lo: To firmly combine the moderation of the East and the humor of the West are favorite styles.

*Whenever possible, Min's answers were left intact without change. Some small changes have been made for clarity and only if it did not change the tone or meaning of the sentence.


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