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The trunk

The second essential element in bonsai is the trunk, or Kokejun. A trunk should taper to the top and it also determines the movement of the tree. A bonsai can be dynamic or static, but it must always be alive, natural, and non-artificial. By examining the trunk you can classify the various bonsai styles, which are derived from nature.

Various styles

The positions in which the apex, trunk and nebari are held and the way each interacts with the other will decide which style of bonsai they are. The diagrams above show the two basic styles — formal or informal.

Formal style, Chokkan

In the formal style there are a great number of branches distributed all over the trunk. These can start from very low down.

Informal style, Moyogi

With a curved trunk we have the famous moyogi. The curves are the style’s most beautiful quality. It is necessary only to keep the few longer and stronger branches on the outside of the curve.

Slanting style, Shakan

When the pinnacle of the apex is on the right or left of centre to the nebari the tree is known as the slanting style, otherwise called shakan. The branches in this style are weighted to the direction in which the tree leans. These branches emerge from the outside of the curves.

Cascade style, Kengai

In extreme cases where the pinacle of the apex leans outside the pot, with branches that hang down towards the base, we arrive at the cascade style or kengai. In this style it’s almost true to say that there is not one apex, but two: the one at the top, the other at the base right at the tip of the cascade. These two apices must have the same movement. In other words they will both move either to the right or to the left.

TIP

View many more styles.

Trees with vertical trunks

Tree with straight trunk

The vertical of the apex of this formal style, or chokkan, falls in the centre of the nebari, the trunk forms a straight line.

Trunk with curves

The trunk of this informal style, or moyogi, has light curves.

Trees with slanting trunks

Slanted or Shakan

Vertical of the apex inside the pot.

Cascade or kengai

Vertical of the apex outside the pot.

Examples of a good trunk

Taper and sharp angles will improve even a very tormented and artificial trunk.

TIP

As a rule of thumb remember that the height of the trunk should be equal to approximately 6 times the diameter of its base.

This example of an almost perfect trunk has good taper, a concept that is significant because it’s the taper that evokes in a bonsai the image of a large old tree. Always preserve this taper, whatever the shape of the trunk.

Examples of a bad trunks

In general, a trunk that makes a reverse taper is not suitable for bonsai.
A trunk with an extreme S-shape does not look very natural.
An example of a very elegant trunk.

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