OPT New Caledonia is pleased to present this new 150 XPF stamp issue, dedicated to the art of bonsai and designed by Jean-Jacques Mahuteau, portraying a Chinese Box or Orange Jessamine shrub(Murraya paniculata).
The art of growing trees in containers (Penjing in Chinese - literally "tray scenery") to create exquisite miniature landscapes emerged in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD). The pun-sai tradition where special techniques were used to grow a single dwarf tree in a container then developed under the Qin Dynasty (220-581 AD).
Buddhist monks carried the art of pun-sai to Japan in the 6th and 7th centuries, where it became known as bonsai. For centuries, particularly in the 12th century when Zen became widespread in Japan, bonsai trees were immensely popular with the ruling classes. Seen as artworks of great elegance and refinement, bonsais were symbols of prestige and the preserve of wealthy aristocrats. Meanwhile, Zen monks sought enlightenment through meditation in the care and contemplation of bonsais.
Towards the 13th century, the Japanese laid down an aesthetic canon for bonsai cultivation and defined a specific set of terms to identify the 34 different styles (or shapes) adopted in growing these miniature trees. Bonsai trees are further divided into three categories according to their size and the number of hands needed to carry them: one-hand, two-hand or four-hand bonsais.
Adepts all over the world practice the art of bonsai as an expression of the harmony between mankind and nature. In New Caledonia, enthusiasts grow bonsais using both local species and species imported from Asia, Europe and Australia.