The Bonsai Village:a garden dedicated to the art of bonsai

Travel

The Bonsai Village:a garden dedicated to the art of bonsai

by Live in Guizhou


PUBLISHED Nov 11, 2021 • 4MIN READ

True quality travel goes hand in hand with culture and the soul. Deep inside the Honghuagang District of Zunyi is a town called Shenxi, where resides “The Bonsai Village.” As its name implies, the Bonsai Village is a garden dedicated to the art of bonsai. Of particular note is the Gou’s Bonsai, with a style unique to northern Guizhou. The Bonsai Village also hosts bonsai-themed hotels and hostels, where you can experience everything related to the ornamental miniature trees imaginable. Come there for the delicately cultivated miniature landscape, and experience the one-stop living and culinary sensation. A good bonsai, though small, captures the essence of a landscape. Similarly, the village though small will impress you with its culture and food.

Gou Yuan

Gou Yuan, also known as the Gou’s Bonsai Garden, is located in Shenxi Town, Honghuagang District, Zunyi City. It was founded by Gou Xianliang, a Chinese Bonsai Artists Association member, and his children. It is also the birthplace of the northern Guizhou school of bonsai artistic expression. The garden is designed with oriental philosophy and covers nearly 100 mus of area. Placed in the garden are tens of thousands of bonsais, quietly tucked away here and there, coming in all sizes and shapes, all reflecting the philosophy of their creators. Thus, one bonsai represents one world, and the entire garden becomes a universe. For bonsai aficionados, this is heaven. Did I mention that admission is free?

Bonsai production technique (the Zunyi Gou Style)

Bonsai production technique (the Zunyi Gou Style) is a popular folk tradition in the region. The artisan replicates natural landscapes through horticulture and shaping plants to the desired effect. There eight major schools of bonsai production. The Zunyi bonsai technique is born out of Sichuan school while also incorporating many local elements, forming a unique take on the artistic style. The Gou family has engaged in bonsai production for more than 100 years. Gou Xianliang as the inheritor of the craft continues to promote the development of bonsai. Gou was not taught by teachers nor textbooks, but rather through his dedication and love for the bonsai art. Gou has been cultivating bonsai for over 40 years, making more than 100,000 pieces. His commitment has garnered recognition and awards from China and the rest of the world, making him one of the most widely acknowledged masters in Zunyi and Guizhou.

The Gou Style Bonsai requires many steps to work in concert, from seedling cultivation to selection, from careful nurturing to shape-setting. The painstaking effort to produce one bonsai requires years, if not decades, of dedication, pruning and trimming, and wiring and clamping of the bonsai’s shape. The Gou Style shapes the plants by their unique characteristics, which involves the artisan judging the flow of the tree’s energy. Correctly done, the energy and the artisan will work together to mold the shape. Each bonsai will have a unique name based on its final configuration. According to Master Guo, bonsais are created by carefully selecting which sapling to dedicate one’s work. The sapling will then be constantly pruned and shaped by wires. The caretaker must be very careful to clip any unwanted sprouts, maintain the soil balance, and cover the topsoil with the appropriate moss. Even after initial success, the bonsai still have to be pruned and maintained throughout the years. A masterpiece is the work of a decade or several decades, as caretakers pour in their heart and soul into their creation.

Bonsai appreciation also requires experience and learning. Master Gou Xianliang, the founder of the Gou’s Bonsai Garden, introduced his masterpiece “Ringing through the Sky,” a special gold award winner at the World Horticultural Fair. The mold is of a Cathay Persimmon. Each branch of the tree tells a different story and can serve as landscapes in their own rights. The tree blossoms in April, fruits in May, and the green fruits turn orange after October. The bonsai is many stories combined in one, no wonder it caused such a sensation.

Bonsai has been a part of the Guizhou culture and art for hundreds of years. Because of this, bonsai is not simply an important matter for the Gou family but also for their neighbors. As the village gained prominence, the villagers became gardeners. Many have also set up lodges to accommodate visitors. As you walk across town, following the well-trodden stone road, you will find it hard not to notice the various bonsais on display. Shapely greenery will always be in sight. And if you feel worn out by your travels, why not stay the night, and rest in this tiny artistic village amidst the ten thousand bonsais?