Article 05 – ‘Bonsai size classification’

As mentioned in the last post the classifications for tree sizing, which tend to vary in exact specifics is due to the fact that each individual bonsai is unique and may or may not fit into a specific category, despite their exact size. Arguably, for the bonsai enthusiast not concerned with exhibitions, classification specifics are of little importance. But for those contemplating exhibiting, bonsai size classification may be a relevant factor.

Miniature Bonsai
Kenshitsubo – Are the smallest possible variety of bonsai, which are simply seedlings referred to as ‘poppy seed’ sized trees, their height is approximately 2.5 cm to 8 cm.

Shito – The smallest common size of bonsai are usually between 5 cm and 10 cm in height. Their containers are no larger than a thimble and are normally described as the thimble bonsai.

Shohin – These bonsai are in a category that overlaps others with their height ranging between 5 cm and 15 cm. They’re also known as the palm bonsai, because of how they fit in the palm of one’s hand. Shohin and Shito are differentiated from other small bonsai trees because of the techniques used to create them.

Mame – Bonsai grow between 10 cm to 20 cm in height. They are considered to be the smallest of bonsai trees known as ‘one handed’ trees, because it takes one hand to move them. The containers they grow in are larger than those of Shohin bonsai and are more commonly found than those described above.

Komono – Also known as the ‘all-inclusive’ small bonsai grows to a height averaging between 15 cm to 26 cm and are considered as the largest tree which can be moved with one hand.

Although there is some variation between the exact heights of bonsai at such a small size, these are the most common classifications.

Medium Bonsai
Katade-Mochi – Classification is for bonsai that can be lifted by ‘one hand’, growing between 25 cm and 46 cm in height. It is contended that this size of bonsai is easier to work meaning they are neither too large to handle or too small to prune.

Chumono and Chiu – These two categories are similar with bonsai growing to a height of between 40 cm to 90 cm and considered as ‘two handed’ bonsai. It is often said that some tend to disregard the Japanese names for size classifications, their viewpoint is that Medium bonsai is between 30 cm and 60 cm, whilst larger specimens are between 60 cm to 90 cm in height.

Large Bonsai
Omono, Dai – These bonsai are large and perceived as the first among the ‘four hand’ category as they grow from 76 cm to 122 cm in height, hence the need for two people to carry them. Omono and Dai both share the same size range and styles.

Hachi-Uye – Are among the largest bonsai trees and known as ‘six handed’ growing to heights of between 102 cm and 152 cm tall.

Imperial – The largest and probably the most majestic of all Bonsai grow between 152 cm and 203 cm in height and are be found in the Japanese imperial gardens, but can be in prominent nurseries and private collections. They are referred to as ‘eight handed’ bonsai.

Bonsai tree size classification is as much an art form as designing the shape and style of a tree. However, these categories although having relative importance, are not considered mandatory as many are not concerned about the exact size. Arguably the only classification that remains unchanged through time, is the Imperial bonsai, due to its origin and name. Meaning, that the largest bonsai trees found in the Japanese imperial gardens are Imperial bonsai.

Another consideration is the design and style of bonsai and in which category does it belong. For example, the traditional 2 dimensional Japanese style where the tree is only viewed from one side – the front, the 3 dimensional European perspective where all sides are seen – or would it have a style of its own – that of what the individual artist has visualized. There is a lot of argument regarding this topic something to discuss in the next post. Until then, BW, N.

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