Channel: Life & Style

Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Pots, plants, and engineers
No we are not talking of power plants, but of the specialist art of Bonsai which literally means a plant in a pot in both Chinese and Japanese languages.
 
 

No we are not talking of power plants, but of the specialist art of Bonsai which literally means a plant in a pot in both Chinese and Japanese languages. So what does the art of Bonsai have in common with India and the UK.

 

Its Peter Chan, the world renowned Bonsai specialist who creates this special linkage between India and the UK. Born to Chinese parents in Calcutta, Peter took upon engineering in his youth at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, India.

 

After his graduation in 1962 Peter moved to the UK to work in the electricity supply industry. He did that for ten years before joining the UK Department of Energy. While working for Government, he did a two year stint as energy policy speech writer during the Thatcher era. It was while writing speeches on enterprise culture that he got the urge to leave his nine to five job and set up his own business. He turned his hobby of bonsai into setting up Herons Bonsai, which after twenty five years has become UK’s premier Bonsai center.

 

Peter prides himself as a self taught bonsai master. There is a lot more to Bonsai than what seems obvious, he believes. A Bonsai is a living work of art. It is not simply any old tree or plant growing in a pot. Its shape is achieved by the skillful manipulation and training of the trunk and branches so that it is a perfect miniature of a fully grown tree in nature. Unlike other works of art a bonsai is a living thing. It lives, breathes, grows and changes. That is the fascination of bonsai.

 

A bonsai plant is not a genetic modification of any sorts. It must be made from ordinary trees and shrubs. If a bonsai’s growth is left unchecked then it is very likely to grow back into a full tree. Therefore it must be pruned regularly.

 

The art of Bonsai has transcended generations from the people of the Orient and one that must be preserved, believes Peter. But according to him it isn’t very difficult to learn this art. The most important aspects are pruning skills and artistic imagination that make Bonsai unique. Bonsai is one of the fastest growing hobbies today. There is a following in almost every country in the world. In India there is massive interest , but it is mainly women who pursue this hobby, whereas in Japan and most Western countries, it is mainly men who do bonsai.

 

Peter is probably best known for the eight books on bonsai that he has written. Thousands the world over have learnt their bonsai from reading his books. His book ‘Bonsai Secrets’ which he wrote for the Readers Digest is now a standard text-book on bonsai. In India he is treated with reverential respect for his bonsai knowledge.

 

But who would have associated his skill with IIT? With his analytical skills as an engineer, he has been able to figure out the techniques of bonsai and even introduce new techniques in this ancient art.

 

He is nonetheless intensely proud of his IIT pedigree. He says that were it not for his IIT training, he would not be where he is today.

 
More information on Herons Bonsai can be found onwww.herons.co.uk
 


Peter with HM The Queen at a Chelsea Flower Show, where he has won a record 21 Gold Medals, a feat no other bonsai artist has ever achieved.

 
 

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