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Ceremony Marks National Bonsai, Penjing Museum Reopening

By Alfredo Flores
May 8, 2003

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2003--A new interactive learning exhibit, 10 new penjing trees and three new pieces of calligraphy are part of the newly renovated National Bonsai and Penjing Museum that opened today at the U.S. National Arboretum.

After a year-long closure for renovations, the museum opened its doors to the public today during a ceremony this afternoon in the museum's courtyard, followed by a reception celebrating the completion of the renovation. Since March 2002, the museum had been undergoing a $1.6 million facelift funded by the National Bonsai Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

"The renovations to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum will make this, the world's first true bonsai museum, even more attractive to tourists, horticulturists, gardeners, people in the nursery trade, bonsai enthusiasts and anyone who wants to learn more about this wonderful art form," said Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Joseph Jen.

Renovations to the museum's upper courtyard area have made it more accessible to visitors with limited mobility by replacing a large, uneven gravel courtyard with hard, wheel-friendly surfaces.

The ceremony included an unveiling of 10 new penjing trees donated by the recently deceased penjing master Stanley Chinn of Wheaton, Md.; three new pieces of calligraphic artwork made specifically for the museum's renovation by noted Japanese artist Ken'ichi Oguchi of Okaya, Japan; and a new interactive bonsai learning exhibit titled "Bonsai: Test Your Knowledge." Stanley Chinn's widow, Susan, attended the ceremony, as did Hiromasa Oguchi, son of Ken'ichi Oguchi.

The art of developing an artistically designed miniature tree growing in a pot originated in China, where it was known as penjing, and subsequently spread to Japan, where it was modified slightly and known as bonsai, at about the time Buddhism was introduced in Japan.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum is the most comprehensive museum of its kind in the world. It opened in 1976, when the Nippon (Japan) Bonsai Association donated 53 bonsai--one of which was given by Ken'ichi Oguchi--to the people of the United States to commemorate the nation's bicentennial. Now, more than 200,000 people annually visit the museum's collection of 150 plants located in three pavilion houses.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's primary scientific research agency and operates the Arboretum.