Suiseki, or viewing stones, make a natural complement to bonsai. This art form of finding, preparing and presenting rocks as art works fits perfectly into the bonsai theme as it underlines the natural feel we try to capture in bonsai.
Suiseki are distinct from rocks or stones used in bonsai either as supplements to surface plantings, or as supporters of roots as in the root-over-rock forms. Rocks chosen as suiseki invariable conjure up images of natural scenes, animals or even people without being literal replicas of what they portray. The more obvious (easy on the eye) examples are rocks that represent mountains or islands.
But while this illusionary aspect of suiseki adds to their charm, the rocks used must themselves primarily posses a special and natural beauty.
Once initiated into the art of bonsai, one will invariably become much more aware of the beauty of stones. While you may well have stones that are suitable for suiseki, going rock hunting is a way to enjoy both the great wide outdoors and the miniature, more intimate face of nature. Many areas are literal rock-fields that conceal thousands of rocks in infinite variety. The real skill is finding the right rock possessing the right characteristics This often takes time and what better way to spend this time than rambling through the wilds.
Of course it should go without saying that respect for nature should be ever part of rock hunting. While some environments are very robust, others are extremely fragile. Every rock may be the roof of some tiny creature's home. So lift stones only when they look promising and return unsuitable ones back from whence they came. Walk away from the rock-field with your gathered treasures, feeling that you have disturbed nature as little as possible.
Suiseki is a generic name but like bonsai, there are many categories defining the style or illusion created with the rock. Sui-seki are actually "water stones" while sansui-seki are "land stones". Then there are Toyama-seki, mountain stones (yama=mountain), Taki-seki, waterfall stones (taki=waterfall) and others. More of this some other time. The important thing is that the stones are not planted with plants and apart from their stands are presented for their own beauty.
Suiseki are presented in various ways depending on what they represent. Specially made-to-suit wooden and ceramic stands are used for special specimens like the famous Yoroi Ishi that is known to almost every Suiseki collector in Japan. Special suiseki are given unique names such as the Yoroi Ishi that is actually a Taki-seki. Its lava strata presented vertically give the impression of a vertical cliff punctuated with cascades from a waterfall.
Ceramic and wooden trays are used to present mountain and island scenes. Island scenes may be presented in suiban, flat ceramic trays that hold water, adding authenticity to the presentation. Otherwise the trays are filled with carefully selected and graded gravel to represent soil or water in these scenes.
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Last updated 2010-12-23 09:12