Vol#15 Bonsai techniques: Jin (神) and Shari (舎利)
Today, I would like to talk about one of the joy of bonsai: Jin (神) and Shari (舎利).
Trees that grow in severe environments like near the timberline or on rock walls often exhibit a unique feature called "shirokannabi" (白骨化) (white boneification), where parts of their branches and trunks whiten and wither. This is the result of natural environmental factors such as strong winds, lightning strikes, heavy snowfall, and landslides which cause branches and trunks to split and weather.
There is a belief that trees retain these dead parts to use them as a shield against the frequent natural disasters they face. This is quite a demonstration of the tree's vitality.
In the bonsai world, these parts are called Jin and Shari. Both terms are borrowed from Buddhist terminology. The exposed dead and living parts on a Bonsai tree express the coexistence of "life and death." This also relates to the aesthetic and cultural concept of Wabi-sabi in Japan.
Bonsai with Shari parts is often used as a decoration during tea ceremonies to display a representation of the spiritual world. The waterstones paired with the tree often represent Buddhist deities’ such as Kannon, Daruma, and Takamine.
While most types of pine and cypress trees can produce Jin and Shari, the Japanese white pine is still considered the most iconic and representative one. Even young trees can express their age and vitality by adding Jin and Shari, which changes the atmosphere they create significantly.
Nowadays, there are many bonsai tools suitable for using such techniques and I feel that it has become easier compared to the past. Look for a suitable tree and tools to try sculpting, you will surely enjoy bonsai shaping even more!
Thank you for reading!
ReBonsai Yusuke Ogawa
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