Literati Bonsai Style (Bunjin)


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Literati style bonsai tree.

In ancient China the literati were an elite group of scholars who belonged to the ruling class. They were strongly influenced by Confucianism and contributed to the knowledge of science through study and literature.

The literati style of bonsai (or bunjin) is an interpretation of its namesake, an old wise scholar who is frugal in lifestyle, yet has a richness of wisdom and ideas.

Literati style bonsai tree.
Literati (bunjin) bonsai style tree.

They symbolize the many varied lessons of life, which may be portrayed by the thin, rippling, curvy trunk of this style of bonsai tree.


Literati bonsai trees are characterized by a curved trunk that is bare up to around the top third of the tree.

It has a sharp angled look that is reminiscent of an ancient scholar, bowed by his advanced years and knowledge.

The literati style is highly complex, and so is not recommended for beginners. Though it’s form appears deceptively simple.

How to grow a literati Bonsai

One of the key ideas behind the Literati’s form is to present a different “version” of the tree when viewed from each angle.

Wiring and pruning are very important for the Literati style; the trunk needs to be pruned back up to two thirds of the way up, while the branches also need a lot of wiring and pruning to achieve the frequently seen, sharp angled, hanging look.

The pot used is also important for this style. The container of a literati style bonsai needs to look modest and assuming.

A small, unglazed, heavy, and relatively shallow container is a good choice. The eyes should not be drawn away from the tree by a showy container!

Best species for a literati style bonsai

The most suitable tree species for the literati style are species from the Coniferous order, which includes the pines.

Since good options are :

  • Japanese Red Pine
  • Black Pine
  • Juniper
  • Hinoki
  • Cedar

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