Post-Stream Discussion: Literati Design

Hey everyone!

What we all learn, like, dislike, were challenged by, want to know more about, etc.?

This week we focused on incorporating the Literati style of design on a beautiful Lodgepole Pine.

In this stream, we featured techniques surrounding major bends (how to execute when working alone), styling/pruning decisions, and how to select a proper container based on style and size of the composition.

I am including a before and after image of this composition for everyone to critique, comment on, or appreciate.

Thanks, everyone!


As requested, here is a literati pitch pine. It’s already for serious needle plucking and wiring. After the literati feed, I think I’ve got a lot of needle plucking.


This is my ultimate goal


I’ve got a tree that looks just like the one in the thumbnail for this stream!
…except its a different tree…and is nowhere near as good…ah well…patience and practice…slowly slowly catchy monkey


Was there any discussion during the Q&A that followed the Literati Stream about the future amount of foliage Ryan envisioned for the tree? Right now it looks fairly sparse and closer to the penjing way of doing literati. The Japanese literati trees seem to be much denser with foliage. Personally, I’d like to see a bit more foliage on the tree but not too full.

Secondly, any comments about the physical conditions that create literati shaped trees. Ryan referred to the Red pines found in the Yellow Mountains in China. Just thinking out loud, the growing conditions must be harsh but the mountains create a lot of shadow, so the trees might have to grow tall in order to reach into the sunny areas but the harshness only allows for limited amounts of foliage. Wind and snow add to the struggle to survive.

A small comment on the Stream tree. It seems to me that the movement of the upper section Ryan wired moves to the right but the apex moves to the left. It seems inconsistent.

This is from the china online museum. Note the shoulder of the first branches and the way the branch lies close to the trunk-line, very similar to what Ryan achieved with the first branch on the stream. The dramatic changes in the trunk line near the apex are also a feature.
Also, there is less movement in the branches in the upper portion, as these branches have less age (as was discussed in the stream).
So much to learn about the design and historical/cultural background for the different styles.
The deeper you dig, the deeper it gets.


Something Ryan mentioned at beginning of stream was definition of Literati. Sparse branching. That says a huge amount if paying attention.
I also have a pretty good Yamadori Lodgepole Literati candidate and have several branches I have intended to remove for some time when the time comes. Have actually been working on it for about 9-10 years.

Remember Literati do not follow normal rules(or rules at all)except for very few Ryan mentioned in the stream. A big thing to keep in mind so tree does not look like man made groomed tree but natural and wild of character. This tree struggles to re balance itself in this form(as in my humble opinion). Notice one branch near apex goes up over trunk to other side as well as originating near other branch on same side? Very rules breaking. Very “Literati”. Curiously mine also has a dead stub that points upward:wink:. Glad I kept it now.

Once Ryans tree has wire removed it will be gorgeous.

Thanks for your comments William. Certainly lots to think about. Looking at Ryan’s tree again, I wonder how great the movement of the tree has been defined? Clearly the wired section at the top goes right but the placement of many of the branches go both to the right and the left. Given the relative straightness of the main trunk, this ambiguity is perhaps consistent.

I was quite surprised to hear Ryan’s reply to a question in the last Q&A regarding the amount of future foliage mass he envisioned , he said a reduction of 30%, I believe. I always thought Japanese literati still had heavy foliage mass on fewer branches. I am not saying the Japanese style is a better approach as I prefer the sparser, more austere Chinese melancholy look for literati.

In spite of having the opportunity for breaking rules usually associated with other styles, the tree still has to look beautiful in the end. Good luck with your lodgepole literati. Why don’t you post it so that we can all enjoy it and be inspired. Thanks William.

Hi David; Eventually I probably will post it. Right now it looks like a long trunk with a pretty good balance of branches all over the top, Definitely not Literati yet. Also my digital camera konked out awhile back. Along the line of the straightish trunk of the Stream tree in nature it would be the top of the tree that has the worst battle with wind, snow, cold, exposure, etc so to me it makes sense it might be more contorted. Originally I couldn’t see the beauty of these trees but one day I “got” it and they really move me now.

I also have a tree similar but juniper. I have been waiting for a masters level deadwood development workshop before putting the finishing touches to it but think I am getting close to the quality that I was hoping for.


these are great looking trees @LeonardB and @Jimothy.
out of curiosity where was the original material acquired?
what was it’s state then?
and how long in training?

I have two trees like this that I found laying on the ground in a Georgia nursery. They looked like they had been laying there a long time and

had so few roots that I was amazed at the foliage they supported.
The photo progression is at the time of collection ( you can see how little soil was sitting in the pot ), my first pruning in April of 2017, the post literati class in May of 2017, and then the subsequent state of recovery in Oct 2017. The last pic is May of 2018 second pruning and now it sits in recovery.


Really enjoyed the stream, love the feel of the tree and the movement in the trunk truly looks like that of an old tree that has weathered many years. i really love this tree and the way Ryan brought those branches down to mimic the trunk is beautiful. I do like the jin on top but i almost wonder if the long one on top is a little distracting, i really love the shorter jin coming out of the left side, i could see the apex sitting even with that and really accentuating the top bend in the trunk. But thats just personal taste, it is gorgeous. Great work!

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It is funny in bonsai that you can look at a tree for years and then you see a picture, a demonstration, a tree and then the light comes on! The light from a star faraway that goes super nova. LOL.

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Very poetic but often true.

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Yeah, mine was dug from someones yard (late 2016) and looked something like this…

And at the time, lets just say that my collecting skills were …sub-optimal :smile:
I looked for a reasonable trunk in that mess, and sort of found i liked the movement of one piece (so chopped of the rest, like a vandal):

Then wired it into the shape in the first post.
Not great material, but nice to practice :wink:


I’m still not entirely sure about leaving that branch that comes across that first big loop and covers that nice negative space.

Not convinced about both jins. I know Ryan loves em, but I’ve added some photoshopped images to show the differences. Thoughts?


I wasn’t crazy about the jins but the tree seems naked(too clean or groomed) without them in comparison. Either one alone seems somehow off balance/wrong but together they seem to counter balance the other. To me anyway.
Annnnnnd in time they will weather, age and at least partly break off as naturally would happen. By then the tree will have evolved and changed some I am sure.

I enjoy the look of this for some reason, especially when Ryan removes that lower right side branching in the future like he talked about, love the flow