Viewing stones (suiseki) are dense stones found in rivers, along the ocean shore or desert. While there are tens of thousands stones within ones visual scope at any moment, perhaps one stone has been eroded by natural circumstances, water or wind and sand, resulting in the shape of a miniature scene. These shapes may be suggestive of a landscape (suiseki) such as mountains, islands, waterfalls, coastal rocks or shelters or object (keisho seki) such as humans, animals, huts, boats or patterns (monyo seki) such as sun, moon, stars, rain, lightning, grass, bamboo and garden stones (niwa ishi).
The collector may find that hidden masterpiece based, in part, on ones life experiences, familiarity of the shapes and styles of viewing stones, persistence and their mood at the moment. Experienced collectors believe that finding one such masterpiece during a year of searching is an achievement, since an ideal stone is a rarity. None-the-less, several masterpiece stones have been found by novice collectors on their first hunt. Two such stones are in the National Collection in Washington, DC.
The Chinese, in their travels to Korea and Japan, are credited with introducing the art of stone appreciation while the Japanese modified and refined the art into its present standards. Penjing, an all inclusive term, applies to Chinese viewing stones and miniature trees, while suiseki (sui-water, seki-stone) describes the traditional Japanese art form of landscape stones. Although penjing and suiseki have a common origin, they have evolved into quite different forms and styles. The Korean term for viewing stones is soosuk (water stone).
California Aiseki Kai, focusing on the Japanese tradition, will present its 21st Annual Viewing Stone Show of 150 or more outstanding displays at The Huntington Botanical Gardens and Library in San Marino, Dec. 26 through Jan. 2 (closed Jan 1), 10:30 am -4:30 pm each day, in Friends’ Hall. Admission to Friend’s Hall is free. Informative slide shows and docent tours. Go to www.aisekikai.com for further details.
“A room full of rocks might seem an unlikely place to find artistic inspiration or inner enlightenment. If those rocks are viewing stones, however, the viewer will find all that and a great deal more.” Lisa Blackburn, Huntington Botanical Gardens and Library