page contents The Little Bonsai: Hòn non bộ Bonsai for peace, happiness and tranquility in Vietnam

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

Growing and Caring for Bonsai Trees

Hòn non bộ Bonsai for peace, happiness and tranquility in Vietnam

Hon non bo landscape

Please correct me if I am wrong, but this article tries to be as accurate as possible on how Bonsai culture was introduced to Vietnam. In fact, as a visitor you can admire Bonsais in almost every town Hòn non bộ. Your comments and suggestions on Bonsai culture in Vietnam are welcome in this blog!

Classic Bonsai Stamp, Ficus Glomerata
Hòn means Island, Non means Mountain, and Bô means a combination of water, mountain range and forest, or it can also mean "imitating the way the scenery looks in miniature" in Vietnam. North and South, both parts of Vietnam share the same passion of styling, modeling and taking care of wonderful Bonsai masterpieces. 

The Vietnamese version of Bonsai is called ''Hòn non bộ'' which mainly focuses on depicting landscapes of islands and mountains, usually in contact with water, and decorated with live trees and other plants. Like water and land penjing, hòn non bộ specimens can feature miniature figures, vehicles, and structures.

Growing bonsai trees (Japanese: tree in a pot) is very much a part of Vietnamese culture and as popular today as it ever was, particularly among the elderly. Many may wonder why a Japanese term is used to describe the art, but the word bonsai derived from the Chinese (pen zai). The art of planting trees in pots first began in China then spread to surrounding countries, including Vietnam and Korea. Vietnamese Bonsai are becoming more popular than ever, especially in todays modern times with countless information provided by the Internet and also free market access to Bonsai's.

How It Started

No official document explains when bonsai was introduced to Vietnam, but  some researchers say that Fujian province somewhere in his paternal bloodline. How ever this fact remains to be officially proven.

It all began in Ly Dynasty (1010-1225) and was flourishing in the ancient capital of Thang Long, now Ha Noi. In 1009, the Early Lê dynasty passed from flourish and downfall in 29 years with 3 Emperors Lê Đại Hành, Lê Trung Tông and Lê Ngọa Triều. During the Ly Dynasty, China had tremendous influence over Vietnam and both countries shared knowledge, traded goods and crafts skills and religious philosophies. In other words, China and Vietnam had an amicable relationship.

How ever, its known that the last emperor Lê Ngọa Triều died in 1009 after evil and brutal ruling in Đại Cồ Việt which made him and his dynasty becoming unpopular to civilians. The founder of the Lý Công Uan has been said to have had origins from China. Hòn Non Bộ, as well as miniature plants and rocks, are mentioned in Đoạn Truòng Tân Thanh, a thousand-page book by Nguyễn Du.

Hòn Non Bộ may be quite large and elaborate or small and simple. It was used to grace the courtyard entrance of the traditional Vietnamese home. Throughout Vietnam history, Hòn Non Bộ have been built for emperors, generals, and other important people as monuments, decorations, personal vistas, and as cultural icons. An example of Hòn Non Bộ scenery is on display at the Balboa Park, San Diego, California USA. To some, they can see the tenets of Confucianism. Others see Buddhist and Taoist beliefs. But more than that, bonsai trees and the scenes they depict are believed to bring good fortune, long life, strengthen family ties and even ensure fertility. They are magical, not just to behold, but in every sense of the word. They are the world in miniature, and all its mysteries and magic.

Vietnamese Bonsai

Hon non bo
A classical Hon non bo Bonsai on display

The cousin of Hon non bo, a Chinese Penjing Bonsai master piece on display

Shiwan Bonsai
Bonsai Ornaments, Chinese Shiwan (Shekwan) ware. These beautiful figurines are used to enhance landscaping

Interesting Books on Bonsai can be found here:

The Complete Book of Bonsai --> I've been into bonsai for 25 years and this is the basic Bible for beginner and intermediate bonsai enthusiasts. It has an excellent section on techniques, including pruning, wiring and whatnot, and it has a large species-specific tree guide. If you're into bonsai and want only one book, this is it.

Indoor Bonsai The Great Selection --> Creating beautiful, healthy bonsai is a wonderful skill that anyone can learn, with a little time, patience, and this all-inclusive manual. With color photos and drawings to illustrate the points, it introduces all the cultivation techniques; offers expert advice on location, soil types, watering, and pest control; and provides intricate instruction on training the bonsai--including pruning, wiring and stretching it.

The Secret Techniques of Bonsai --> In The Secret Techniques of Bonsai, the author of the groundbreaking Bonsai With American Trees teams up with his son to offer not only the basics for creating perfect bonsai, but also secret techniques they’ve developed over years of careful work and observation.

Bonsai Survival Manual --> Problem solving when your Bonsai get sick. Expand your gardening repertoire as you create a captivating and exquisite miniature world. In this introductory guide, Colin Lewis covers everything you need to know to design, grow, and successfully maintain attractive bonsai.

Bonsai and the art of Penjing --> Bonsai & Penjing, Ambassadors of Beauty and Peace describes how Chinese penjing and North American bonsai were later added to the Museum, making its collection the most comprehensive in the world. Stories of individual trees and forest plantings are featured, as are the roles played by the skilled and talented creators of these living art forms people such as John Naka, Saburo Kato, Yuji Yoshimura, Harry Hirao, and Dr. Yee-Sun Wu.

Bonsai with Japanese Maples --> With their delicate foliage, seasonal color changes, and intricate pattern of branching, Japanese maples are among the most popular and suitable plants for bonsai design. In this long-awaited book, internationally renowned expert Peter Adams discusses both the specific horticultural needs of Japanese maples as bonsai subjects and illustrates proven techniques for creating and maintaining beautiful specimens.

The Modern Bonsai Practice --> The most current, useful information on growing Bonsai. Fresh, practical, definitive, comprehensive reference guide to the finest art of horticulture: growing miniature trees. Common sense bonsai answers separating myth from fact with depth and detail. Appropriate for both bonsai hobbyists and experienced practitioners.

More Bonsai articles can be found here:

Please click here for more information on --> Chinese Penjing Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> The Origins of Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> The Art of Saikei Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> Japanese Tanuki Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> How to Water a Bonsai
Please click here for more information on --> Bonsai Healing Methods

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