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 Post subject: Spring Murmurs (an elegy)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:15 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2009 2:30 pm
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Location: Herborn, near Frankfurt, Germany
Spring Murmurs (an elegy)
by Peter Krebs

day after day passes by.
This is how you came to existence,
- Buson

What is the past? Aren't things only past once they have been forgotten?

The past stays alive as long as we keep and remember it in our heads and our hearts. Only when it's forgotten, it's eradicated forever. This is true of memories, thoughts, experiences as well as for music, literature and works of art. When it has been forgotten or lost, it is truly past. Everyting in nature consists of beginning and dying. The maturing of man consists of past, present and future, there's no progress without these. Things experienced, and things that could have been, can be kept by us and can enrich our lives in many ways. Human thought, things of daily use and works of art have accumulated over millenia, and some of it is as fresh as on the first day.

Bonsai and their pots are part of this process too. Trees existed long before mankind. Ceramics is almost as old as mankind. In the Immortal Cave of the province of JIANGSU in China, ceramics have been found that are dated to 10 000 B.C. In China, porcelain has developed from these archaic ceramics, and porcalain is still an essential article in our Western culture, be it in the household, for sanitary use or in medicine.

When holding old, well-used bonsai pots in my hand, I feel some of the things just mentioned. How many people will have held them in their hands, and how many are yet to come. It is beautiful to live with things of the past and the future. This vitality is especially apparent in old, painted Chinese porcelain pots. Chinese potters drew their imagery from religion and popular belief. Real as well as imagined things were expressed with signs and symbols. Luck, prosperity and success should be bestowed on the owner of a pot painted with these symbols. The depictions of the seasons, of plants and animals were a tribute to nature. Unlike in the west, showing individual people and their personality was a concept that was alien to Chinese painters. The single person was secondary, not the master of things to be subordinated.

The thunder of the waterfall
has been silent for many years.
But when its name is called,
it sounds again like in former times.
- Fujiwara No Kinto


Here I'd like to show you one of these old works of art. It is a masterpiece, and without doubt it belongs to the most beautiful pots ever made in China. This porcelain pot speaks in a vibrancy that we with our western cultural background can't even start to grasp. What has grown over generations in China can maybe be translated in words, but not on the emotinal level. On the other hand there's a certain hope that in future generations there will be some genuinely western ideas in bonsai culture that will correspond to our own imaginations and our reality.

The pot is hexagonal with the dimensions 26 cm height and 36 cm diameter (10 x 14 in). Its analytic description is: soft porcelain, cobalt blue underglaze painting, China, about 100 - 150 years old. But this pot needs to be read with the heart. A beautiful and sublty painted landscape opens to the discerning eye.


Depicted is the whole magic of spring in a montain scenery with lakespag and pagodas. Three Chinese wise men or scholars (perhaps the number three is also symbolic for the three months of spring?) are woven into it like in a gobelin. Flowering trees almost lure you into taking a smell at the pot. It is beautiful to be exposed to this flair, to be enchanted by the art that these Chinese painters had such a masterly command of. The pot becomes narrower at the bottom, and a narrow band with a floral decor girdles it like the hip of “HSIAN NÜ”, a fairy. This way it delimits the pot from its plinth which again gets broader at the base.


Symbolic again are the cutouts in the plinth, they are evocative of clover leaves, and again a floral decor spreads over the entire base.


Another strong symbol is the upper rim of the pot, it is covered with a meandering thunder symbol. Already early Chinese texts mention thunder as “Laughter of the sky”, but to timid people it could also be the “anger of the god of the sky”.


The pot is from the collection of Paul Lesniewicz (see also the section on Paul Lesniewicz in “Museum”).

Photograghs: Josef Wiegand
Translation: Stefan Ulrich

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