Literati – Love it or hate it

By October 14, 2017 No Comments


One can start introducing the Literati by saying that it is not a traditional style but a natural form.  The Literati style bonsai tree is totally different from the other styles, and this characteristic makes this style to stand out, while it’s simplicity brings mixed emotions: One can love it or hate it.  Actually this style has many different variations and they are quickly recognizable.  One can say that there are no rules in the Literati style, and the more the tree has a natural movements the more it is attractive to most.

The form is usually upright, with very long and thin trunk, although it can leaning to a cascade style.  It can also have a root over rock and any other mixture of styles.

The classical Literati style:

  1. Is not expected to have too many curves.
  2. Deadwood is sparsely used.
  3. Ir reflects a quiet and serene appearance.
  4. The style show a sort of Zen feeling.
  5. It also depict old yetr sophisticated look.

The modern Literati style

  1. It showing off with plenty of curves twists and kinks.
  2. Include some deadwod.
  3. Incorporates enormous trunk movements.

The word Literati

Literati normally refers to art scholars who started practicing an original and innovative in various forms of art, such as painting, poetry, sculptures and other art forms.  The new art presented by the new scholars was not accepted very easily, in fact, most people at that time were upset by this new art forms that were not commonly understood.

Literati Bonsai Style

The Literati style was created due to long observation in nature, since even nature, has been created trees in nature in the form of a Literati Bonsai style.  Both in nature and in bonsai, the Literati tree has a trunk that is twisted sometimes with dramatic curves.   Most of them have a slender trunk, and most of them have few with branches at the upper part of the tree. Foliage in this style is purposely sparse, just enough to maintain a healthy tree.

Although this style has no definite pattern which seems disfigured, the actual form indicates the tree struggle to survive, and shaped by the wind itself, as if an abstract painting.  I already indicated that this style is more of a natural form than a style, but this does not mean that bonsai artists cannot train a tree in a literati style.


Training a Literati Bonsai

It is a know fact that it is the tree itself that will indicate which style suits best and not the bonsai artist.  A heavy trunk with some movements and natural deadwood is ideal for a slanting, informal or a formal style, while a tree with a sleak tall trunk is pushing the artist to make Literati tree.  It is know through the bonsai community that one has to “listen to the tree” indicating that the movement and shape of the stock tree indicates how it will become.

One should look for these characters in a stock tree:

  1. Sleak tall trunk.
  2. Healthy foliage at the upper part of the tree.
  3. Little or no deadwood.
  4. A long trunk with few nebari.
  5. A feminine looking shape

Once a tree with similar characteristics is found, here are some tips to follow.

  1. Remove the lower branches.
  2. Leave the least amount of branches.
  3. Avoid ‘cross like’ branches on both sides.
  4. Taper in the trunk should be visible.
  5. The trunk is the center point of the style design.
  6. Keep enough foliage to keep the tree healthy.
  7. The final design should include balance, grace and elegance.


Pots for Literati

There is no strict rule when it comes to choosing a pot for a Literati style, but when looking what type of pots others are using, the first remark is that they usually use a shallow rounded pot.  Others might use an artistic pot, or a square one.  The most important rule is to match the pot with the style of the Literati tree.  It is a matter of taste, but let elegance, balance ans style rule.  The color of the pot also varies, depending upon the tree.

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Martin Abela

Author Martin Abela

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