Friday, September 25, 2009

French to English: Bonsai, Part 1



I couldn't decide what my next theme would be and took an extra day to think about it.  Then it hit me.  I had just finished a report and three articles on Bonsai trees for a client and my research yielded plenty of information so I thought, why take up unnecessary brain energy when the answer's right there? 

I cannot and will not reproduce any of what I wrote for my client for ethical and copyright reasons, but given the amount of Bonsai education I acquired - not to speak of the enlightenment - I could blog about those things that were not covered in my client's articles and report. 

If you read books and online articles on Bonsai, one of the first things you'll learn is how the name "Bonsai" came about. This beautiful art form originated in China; the Chinese called it "pen-jing."  Soon afterwards, this practice reached Japan and "pen-jing" gave way to "Bonsai."

If you view the slide above, you only see one object - a tree - and it's sitting on a pot.  Whatever tree you see is the miniature version of the actual tree; meaning, the tree that's on your street or in the park or in the mountains with the huge trunk and the rich foliage.  Bonsai then means a miniature tree ("sai") that grows in a pot or container ("bon"). 

Bonsai tree hobbyists number in the millions.  It has become so popular since it was introduced in the West right after the second World War that numerous societies and federations dedicated to promoting this art have proliferated.  Anyone who wants to start a Bonsai hobby will have access to resources - the Internet, local libraries and staff in botanical gardens.  Even your local nursery and garden center will be able to tell you about how to get started.

For part 1 of this lexicon, I will focus on the different shapes (some Bonsai writers call them styles) of Bonsai trees.  But before I give you the French and English words, some things to mull over:

  • Your Bonsai tree must be a replica of the same tree growing outside;
  • Bonsai trees are generally of two types:  indoor and outdoor;
  • In terms of care and maintenance, outdoor Bonsai trees are easier than indoor trees.  This is because indoor Bonsai trees have to grow in an environment that is identical to the natural environment of the tree.  If there is a lack of light and humidity levels are slightly off in your home, there's a strong chance that your Bonsai tree will struggle.  And as some experts say, a  Bonsai tree that struggles to survive is likely to die;
  • Bonsai trees can be grown from any tree, shrub or houseplant.  They are not genetically modified;
  • Not all plants or trees growing in a container can be called Bonsai.  For a tree to qualify as a Bonsai tree, it must be a miniature size and must grow in a container.
  • And this one is from Peter Chan, well-known Bonsai expert who owns a Bonsai shop in London:  "A Bonsai must be a work of art.  If it has no artistic merit, it is just an ordinary plant in a pot.  The beauty of Bonsai is that, unlike a painting or sculpture, it lives, breathes, grows and changes - it is always a 'work in progress.'" (Peter Chan, Bonsai Secrets, 2006).



rigoureusement vertical formal upright
souplement vertical informal upright
penché slanting
cascade; demi cascade cascade; semi cascade
troncs doubles et multiples double and multiple trunks
groupes et paysages group or landscape
battu par les vents windswept
balai broom
lettré literati
le style aux racines apparentes exposed roots
le style racines sur la roche root over rock
sur rocher planted on rock
tronc enroulé coiled
tronc écorcé driftwood

According to Peter Chan, no shape or style is superior than the other.  The Literati and driftwood styles, however, appear to be favorites.  The root-over-rock and cascade styles are difficult to create so they fetch a steeper price.

For part 2, we'll look at some of the tools that are used by Bonsai tree growers.

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