Shohin Display – The Box Stand

Displaying trees on a table top for most people is pretty easy. If you have ten or so stands, ten or so accent plants, and a dozen stands for the accent, it’s pretty easy to make an great display. The same goes for the display of Shohin. First the tree, then choosing a stand and an accent and a stand for the accent. Make sure it’s on the movement side of the tree and it is pretty simple.

In Shohin since the trees are small and get lost when displayed with larger trees, larger stands are made to show groups of trees at the same time, allowing for a much larger visual impact with the larger trees. These stands come in all sorts of configurations with stands able to hold as many as five trees at once. With a box stand and companion tree, one is able to show six high quality trees at the same time with differing species, fruit and flowers, conifers and deciduous. The companion tree may be a cascading plant or semi cascade, or it may be an upright form, either way it will probably show on a taller stand for cascades. The box stand has openings for each tree. The descending shelves help orient the flow of the box. Much of the display guideline stem from the study of Feng shui.

From Wikipedia:

Feng shui (Chinese: 風水), also known as Chinese geomancy, is a traditional practice originating from ancient China, which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. The term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English. This is a cultural shorthand taken from the passage of the now-lost Book of Burial recorded in Guo Pu’s commentary: Feng Shui is considered pseudoscientific.

Wind – water could also be interpreted as “flow.” The box stand has a lower corner of the stand outfitted with a raised pedestal. This pedestal is mirrored in the set up of shelves. This makes the descending shelf arrangement in the box stand and gives it flow movement in the direction of the descending steps. The box stand can be reversed giving it movement to the right or left. This can be important if the owner only has one black pine, the traditional top shelf tree, in his collection. The tree is placed on the top shelf with the movement of the tree in relation to the movement of the box stand. Right stand movement would need a tree with right movement in the tree. Whether a companion display is used with the box stand, this orientation also sets the direction of accent placement. A right movement box stand with right leaning tree would point to an accent placed on the right of the box stand.

Many times the accent outside the box stand will be a companion ( or receiving )  tree. This arrangement will be on the flow side with a plinth set upon the matt, and a receiving tree placed on a taller stand with accent on the plinth. The tree used inside each of the compartments also have movement. These trees must compliment each other as they descend down the shelving. Each tree should communicate with the tree to it’s left or right. As a rule, since the Black pine is King, and the maple is Queen, the pine will always be on top and the trees will descend in species to the lowest shelf. The middle shelves are reserved for other conifer species like juniper or cedar and the lower shelves for deciduous trees like maples and elms. Quince should also be on a lower shelf, almost having a shrub like appearance. The tree on the taller stand on the plinth should “nod” to the top tree on the box stand. If the accent has movement, though subtle, it should point to the companion tree.

Other types of shelving configurations in stands work exactly like a box stand using the descending shelving as the marker for direction of flow, with the lowest shelf being the exit of flow. Again, a bold conifer or pine should occupy the top shelf with an elm on the middle and a maple on the bottom. In the example below there are five compartments for display. They should not all be used. Some negative space should remain. The middle space could be used for an accent if appropriate, other wise the accent would be shown to the left of the stand with just three trees.

With all this in mind let’s take a look at some examples of public professional displays that worked and those that missed the mark.

 This first example has many flaws. The tree on top is a maple. It looks like it might have left movement based on the direction of the trunk, but upon closer inspection it is obvious that this tree with a canopy would move to the right. The tree is on the correct secondary stand for a top tree. They should be very thin and not add a lot of visual weight up there making the tree seem precarious. The next pair of trees works well, they communicate with each other and the left tree being on a higher shelf has a taller stand while the right tree has only a plinth to highlight the difference in height due to the configuration of the shelves. The trees on the bottom shelf while communicating with each other left to right, are of the same height visually. The tree on the right should have the stand removed to bring the canopy height down exemplifying the difference in height each tree is.

In this display we see the pine up where it belongs. It is on a rather tall stand and adds uneasiness by feeling precarious. The tree points the wrong way for the flow of the box stand. The pine should point to the right. The next pair of trees shows the same maple used in the opposite direction and now it is easy to see, indeed it has movement to the right. The juniper on the left would benefit from a light round stand for a little added height, and the maple where it is. That would accentuate the difference in height of the shelves. The next pair of trees is OK, but the right tree could benefit with a touch shorter stand to help with canopy heights..

In this display the top tree is pointing the wrong way. The display is shown with a companion tree and it is shown on the correct side based on the movement in the box stand. The real problem is not showing with enough room to properly spread this display out and get the receiving tree out to the left with the accent between the receiving tree and the box stand. It looks to me that the receiving tree has movement to the left which gives us the feeling of opposition between the top tree and the receiving tree. They both should be turned around.

This box stand has movement to the right based on the shelving, but the top tree is just pointed wrong. The stand is of a good height to give a solid image. The boxwood is a good tree and sits correctly for the stand. The bottom tree is a poor tree and a better tree should have been used as well as having some movement to the left to balance out the whole composition.

This is a nice display. The pine is on top and even though it is a little tall, it is heavy feeling and so grounds the display. The rest of the trees all point the correct way and each of the canopy heights gives us the feeling of stair steps in heights.

This display is nice except for two problems. The right tree on the first pair looks to have movement to the right, taking the eye out of the box stand, and the tree on the left on the bottom pair looks to have very subtle movement to the left taking your eye out of the box stand there also.

This display was a disappointment. Everything was great except for that darn pine on top. It just plain points the wrong way.

This is a perfect display. Let me explain why. The exhibitor has shown with a stand with movement to the right. The top two trees move in the correct way, with the pine moving off to the right on top, and the persimmon communicating with the pine. On the next level we have a Kinzu on a tall stand, giving the feeling of a pedestal, with the tree moving off to the right, with the maple (?) on a plinth to help differentiate the heights. Perfect. Accent is outside the box stand on the correct side according to the flow of the box stand to the right. Good mix of pottery except the bottom two are too similar in color and texture. Some may even wish to bring up the fact that there are two fruiting trees with similar shaped and colored fruits. I love it, I would take fruits all day!

Posted February 17, 2020 by California Bonsai Art

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