Home' The Chronicle : Canberra Chronicle 01-09-15 Contents 5 - Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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STORY TOLD WITH TREES
New examples of ancient art arrive
Bonsai and Penjing collection curator Leigh Taafe with a bonsai from South Australia. Photo: Matt Bedford
Kimberley Le Lievre
The national collection of penjing
trees just got a boost with seven new
specimens arriving from Melbourne.
The bonsai and penjing collection at
the National Arboretum Canberra is
curated by Leigh Taafe, who said the
rare trees were hard to come by.
"It's been difficult for us to find
good quality penjing in Australia
because it is the lesser-known art,
which is unusual because it has been
around about 1000 more years than
bonsai," Mr Taafe said.
Two penjing artists in Melbourne
loaned the arboretum seven trees,
bringing the expanding the collection
by about 20 per cent.
Mr Taafe said the Japanese art of
bonsai aim to create realistic miniature
specimens of large old trees, whereas
the art of penjing was often
accompanied by a story of emotion,
relationship and mythical creatures.
"An example of a penjing
composition may be two trees planted
close together to illustrate the
relationship between father and son or
mother and daughter,'' Mr Taafe said.
"Another example may represent a
mythical dragon protecting a spiritual
"The philosophies of yin and yang
are often incorporated into penjing to
illustrate the contrast between two
"One of my favourites is the
husband stone' composition. The
widow of the artist found a stone and
gave it to him before he died to create
a penjing with it.
He created a composition that
includes the husband stone, a second
stone to represent the wife and a
Chinese elm tree. The two stones are
placed very close together to signify
the closeness of their relationship, and
his love and the bond of penjing
signified through the dominant and
Of the collection at the national
arboretum, Mr Taafe cares for 25
penjing and 97 bonsai, of which about
70 trees are on display.
He said it wasn't until recently that
he was exposed to the high quality
traditionally styled penjing.
"I am intrigued by its philosophies
and principles of styling. Now I have
a great passion and desire to learn
more about this ancient art."
The National Bonsai and Penjing
Collection is housed at the National
Member for Fraser
One of the striking differences
between politics and entrepreneurship
is the treatment of misfortune.
Politics is quick to see failure as
fatal but in innovative places like
Silicon Valley, there is recognition that
adversity is among the best teachers.
It's not only entrepreneurs who can
learn from failure. United States
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
suffered painfully in his personal life,
losing the use of both legs to polio.
As president during the Great
Depression, he saw governing as being
about learning from mistakes.
His approach to governing, he
famously said, would be one of bold,
Roosevelt is generally regarded as
the best US President of the 20th
In Australia, our two longest-
serving prime ministers -- Robert
Menzies and John Howard -- were
ignominiously dumped by their
colleagues as party leaders; both
returned better leaders.
By better appreciating the role of
luck in politics, we won't be as cruel
towards those who are merely unlucky.
By allowing second chances, we're
more likely to gain insights that come
from slipping on life's banana peels.
This is an edited extract from
Andrew Leigh's new book The Luck
of Politics, to be launched at the
Manning Clark Theatre, Australian
National University, at 6.30pm on
Wednesday, September 2.
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