About the classification of bonsai

Classification Methods of Bonsai and Penjing Here, we provide an overview of the classification methods for both bonsai (盆栽) and penjing (盆景).



Bonsai can be categorized based on size, ranging from mini to large. They are further classified into tree and grass types and are characterized by their unique forms.

Tree Sizes

Bonsai come in various sizes, from palm-sized specimens to those
exceeding one meter in height. While each size has its charm, small bonsai that can be easily managed by one person are particularly popular. They are ideal for
veranda cultivation in apartment settings and allow for the separation of tiny finger-sized bonsai from larger, more imposing ones.

Classification by Size:


  • Keshitsubo – Finger-sized bonsai, 3 to 8 centimeters (1 to 3 inches) in size.
  • Shito – One-handed bonsai, 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches).


  • Mame – One-handed bonsai, 5 to 15 centimeters (2 to 6 inches).
  • Shohin – One-handed bonsai, 13 to 20 centimeters (5 to 8 inches).
  • Kumono – One-handed bonsai, 15 to 25 centimeters (6 to 10 inches).


  • Katade-mochi – Two-handed bonsai, 25 to 46 centimeters (10 to 18 inches).
  • Chiu or Chumono – Two-handed bonsai, 41 to 91 centimeters (16 to 36


  • Dai or Omono – Four-handed bonsai, 76 to 122 centimeters (30 to 48 inches).
  • Hachi-uye – Six-handed bonsai, 102 to 152 centimeters (40 to 60 inches).
  • Imperial – Eight-handed bonsai, 152 to 203 centimeters (60 to 80 inches).

Types of bonsai plant

Bonsai can be broadly categorized into tree (樹類) and grass (草物類) types, with trees further divided into four dominant feature-based categories: Juniper & Pine (coniferous or evergreen, 松柏類), Flowering (花物類), Fruiting (実物類), and Others (Deciduous, 葉物類).

Juniper & Pine (Coniferous or Evergreen, 松柏類) Pine and juniper are the
primary species used in bonsai, but this category also encompasses various other
coniferous varieties. Conifers are prized for their strength, elegance, and timeless
appearance, making them versatile for various artistic expressions. Notable
members include Japanese black pines, Japanese white pines, and shimpaku.
Flowering (花物類) Flowering bonsai are celebrated for their vibrant blossoms,
adding a cheerful and fragrant ambiance. These bonsai typically bloom from early
spring to early summer, featuring species like plum, camellias, cherry blossoms,
quinces, roses, azaleas, and Japanese quince. Their graceful shapes and orderly
neatness are essential aspects of their appeal.
Fruiting (実物類) Fruiting bonsai shine when their branches bear ripe fruit, symbolizing bountiful harvests and the changing of seasons. Most of these trees bear fruit from fall to early winter, with varieties like persimmons, apples, oleasters, Japanese winterberries, firethorns, and Japanese beautyberries. Choosing pots that complement the fruit's colors enhances the allure of fruiting bonsai.
Others (Deciduous, 葉物類) Deciduous bonsai are admired primarily for their
foliage, which undergoes seasonal transformations, offering a diverse visual
experience throughout the year. These trees include Japanese maples, liquidambars, zelkovas, birch varieties, hornbeams, stewartias, ginkgoes, and more.


Tree forms

Bonsai can take on various forms, each with its unique appeal and

  • Chokkan (直幹): Formal Upright - The trunk grows straight, reaching directly
    overhead, with roots spreading in all directions. This form closely mimics the
    natural growth of large trees and requires exceptional skill to maintain
  • Moyogi (模様木): Informal Upright - The trunk exhibits gentle curves as it
    grows upward, adding an S-shaped grace to the otherwise straight structure.This is one of the most common bonsai forms, known for its elegance.
  • Fukinagashi (吹き流し): Windswept - This style emulates trees shaped by
    strong winds in mountainous or coastal areas, with all branches and the trunk bending in one direction. It conveys a sense of dynamic movement.
  • Kabudachi (株立ち): Multi-Trunk - Multiple trunks grow from a single root
    system, often in odd numbers (e.g., three, five, seven). This style emphasizes harmony and cohesion among the trunks.
  • Bunjingi (文人木): Literati - Trees in this style feature tall, slender trunks with
    no lower branches, imparting a delicate appearance. It was popularized during the Meiji era in Japan.
  • Yoseue (寄せ植え): Group Planting, Forest Style - Several trees of the
    same type are planted together in a single pot, evoking a woodland or forest
    scene. While formal bonsai typically feature one tree species, wild grass
    compositions may include various grass types and accent plants.
  •  Kengai (懸崖): Cascade Style, Cliff Style - This style portrays trees clinging
    to steep cliffs, with cascading or semi-cascading forms. It captures the
    resilience of trees growing in challenging environments.



    Penjing (盆景) Penjing is a classification method for bonsai based on factors such as the material used and artistic style. It can be divided into two main categories: tree penjing and mountain rock penjing. Within these categories, we find water and land penjing, which combine elements of both.

    Main Categories of Penjing:

    • Shumu Penjing (樹木盆景): Tree Penjing - This category focuses on one or
      more trees, along with optional additional plants, in a container. The composition's dominant elements are shaped by the creator through
      techniques like trimming, pruning, and wiring.
    • Shanshui Penjing (山水盆景): Landscape Penjing - Landscape penjing
      depicts miniature landscapes by carefully selecting and shaping rocks, often
      in contact with water. Small live plants are integrated into the composition to
      complete the landscape.
    • Shuihan Penjing (水旱盆景): Water and Land Penjing - This style combines
      elements of both tree and landscape penjing. It includes miniature trees,
      optional figures, and structures to create detailed landscape portrayals.


    Styles of Traditional Penjing in China Traditional Penjing styles in China are
    primarily named after the dominant plant species used and are often associated with specific regions. These styles have evolved over time to accommodate the unique characteristics of various plants.


    It's worth noting that while both bonsai (盆栽) and penjing (盆景) exist in the world, we recommend that enthusiasts primarily explore Japanese bonsai, as it offers a more accessible and structured learning path. Chinese penjing culture, unfortunately, lacks a unified system and widespread recognition, making it challenging for creators to navigate. However, we are happy to provide relevant information and creative materials for those interested in exploring Chinese penjing further.