Reporting Fran Lane
A rare form of art! The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at The National Arboretum displays a world-class collection of suiseki (viewing stones). Bonsai and viewing stones are closely related art forms, each reflecting a deep respect for nature.
While a bonsai is cultivated to evoke the qualities of a venerable old tree, a viewing stone is displayed to suggest an aspect of the natural landscape, such as a distant mountain or a waterfall. When these small-scale forms are viewed together in a complementary arrangement, the whole of nature can be imagined.
The collection began with six Japanese viewing stones that accompanied the gift of bonsai from Japan on the occasion of the American Bicentennial in 1976. Today there are 105 stones from different countries: Japan, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Zaire, Namibia, Italy, Canada, and the United States. The viewing stone collection has expanded to include stones outside the formal requirements of Japanese viewing stones—such as Chinese scholars’ rocks and abstract natural stones.