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Reality cast in bronze

^ The two works by Eishou and Shozan side by side for comparison. Two sailing boats, the one on the left is by Eishou. Width: 7 cm Depth: 1.2 cm Height: 4.5 cm. On the right, sailing boat by Shozan. Width 5.5 cm Depth: 1.5 cm Height: 4.3 cm

Miniature bronze sculptures to accompany bonsai in a display

At shows you quite often see small figurines, birds, frogs, even houses, made with a remarkable eye for detail. All these items are specially made to present with bonsai. They are officially called tenkei and here you can take a look at a number of masterpiece items that are in the collections of enthusiasts in Japan

The tenkei of Eishou and Shozan

Take a look at the amazingly detailed works of two master craftsmen, Eishou and Shozan.Almost all bonsai enthusiasts will have heard of the tenkei of Eishou. He created a number of bronze tenkei (accessories used in display) from the Taisho period through to the late Showa Period (1912 onwards). They are considered to be masterpieces in the bonsai community, though they were not originally made for use solely in bonsai, but also in the tea ceremony and for learned scholars. It is commonly said that the designs are based on motifs found in Chinese paintings. The depth of character in the material is thought to come from using of old copper, which has been remelted and allowed to become bronze.

Shozan Sail boat by Shozan
Sail boat by Eisho (as seen from behind)

The details around Shozan and his life are much more difficult to find out. When researching Shozan we were surprised at how little information is known of him. He was active at the same time as Eishou and it is often said that Eishou taught Shozan the skills to create tenkei. Although there is no direct evidence that Shozan was the apprentice of Eishou, the similarity of their work and techniques used seem to suggest that this is the case.

Jetty on stilts by Shozan. (width 7.5cm, depth 3.5cm height 6cm).
The detail on the figures on the jetty and the roof are superb and incredible delicate.

Three-storied pagoda by Shozan with suiseki.

Pagoda and suiseki fit in a special box. Pagoda Width: 5 cm Depth: 5 cm Height: 9cm. Suiseki stone Width 7.5cm, Depth: 5 cm Height: 3cm The suiseki is actually made from copper and is a tenkei complete with Shozan’s signature seal on the bottom. The reason that both were made together is not known; however, they are presented as a set.

Summer house by Eishou. Width: 3.5 cm Depth: 3.2 cm Height: 3.2 cm. A superb example, this is a delicate and detailed piece that evokes the feel of rural life.
The roof can be removed so that the base could be used as an incense burner.

Kinkakuji temple by Eishou.

The balance is fantastic and the delicacy of the detailed work is outstanding. It projects a much larger image than the 5cm size belies. A work of great skill and grace. The temple comes in a special box.

Sail boat by Shozan. width 3.8cm, depth 1.7cm, height 7.5cm.
A pair of crested ibis made from patinated bronze. The incredible detail in all parts of the bird are exquisite. The delicacy of the craftsmanship is exemplary of Shozan’s work. Left: Width: 2.3 cm Depth: 1.5 cm Height: 2.7 cm. Right: Width: 2.5 cm Depth: 1 cm Height: 3.3 cm.

Roadside pines

A famous pair of roadside pines by Eishou. The detail and work done on the nebari and the foliage is exquisite and incredible fine. The artistry in the movement of the trunk shows a deep understanding of the use and meaning behind them. A very popular tenkei by a master craftsman.
Pair of roadside pines by Eishou. Left 6.5cm depth 3cm, height 3.5cm. right 5cm depth 2cm height 3.2cm

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Publication dates

English language edition 2024Publication Dates
IssueE-MagazineEuropeRest o/t World
2024-1 #186 | #209- January /FebruaryJan. 1, 2024Jan. 15Jan. 22
2024-2 #187 | #210- March / AprilMar. 4Mar. 18Mar. 25
2024-3 #188 | #211- May / JuneMay 6May 20May 27
2024-4 #189 | #212 -July / AugustJuly 1July 15July 22
2024-5 #190 | #213- September / OctoberSep. 2Sep.16Sep. 23
2024-6 #191 | #214- November / DecemberNov. 4Nov. 18Nov. 25

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