Stone of the Month Archives
Lingbi stone from Anhui province
Our inaugural selection was a small, natural Lingbi stone from Anhui Province. It is a black irregularly shaped stone measuring 20 x 12 x 8 cm with a centrally located, prominent oval hole. As a result of this, the stone creates an image of two kissing birds.
Lingbi stones are typically medium to large-sized stones and one of the four classical stones appreciated by scholars and other literati in China for hundreds of years. These stones vary in color from black and gray, red and yellow, and even white. Many of the Lingbi stone resonate when struck lightly with a small metal object, and have been used historically as musical instruments. Some Lingbi stones are so large they are often used as garden or landscape stones. Small, high quality Lingbi stones such as this one are rare. These stones are excavated from shallow surface mines in Lingbi county in Anhui province. They are from a lens of ancient limestone, heavily eroded by ground water to form their characteristic irregular shapes.
Songhua (Pine Flower) stone
This beautiful Songhua (Pine Flower) stone, also known as Songhua jade, originates from the Changbai Mountain in the northeastern province of Jiling. It was formed hundreds of millions years ago from marine sediments that were covered and compacted over time.
Numerous horizontal striations combined with pleasing earth tone colors results in an attractive stone measuring 22 cm wide, 9 cm deep, and 8 cm high. It resembles a landscape scene with strongly eroded low mountains with small plateaus.
Dahua stones from Guangxi province
The rich orange-brown colored layer adjacent to a darker, mottled brown layer and the circular shape is typical of many water worn Dahua stones that came from deep waters of the Red River in northern Guangxi Province. This stone with its base is 19 cm long, 16 cm wide, and stands 7 cm high. This flatten river rock was transformed into a figure stone resembling a turtle by a creative and skilled wood worker who carved a thin shell of a base with two legs, and a head at one end. Turtles are a symbol of longevity in China and are frequently objects in Chinese stone appreciation.
Dahua stones were first introduced to the stone appreciation community in the late 1990s, and in a few years became immensely popular. They range in size from small, fist-sized to stones as large as a small car. Today, high quality Dahua stones are in great demand, and command very high prices.
“Mountains All in Sight” Wen stone
by Kemin Hu
“Mountains All in Sight” is a literal translation of “Yi Lan Zhong Shan Xiao,” a well known line from a poem by Du Fu (712-772) in the Tang Dynasty. The line originally means that if one stands at the top of the highest mountain, the other mountains would turn smaller in his view. It is always used figuratively to refer to someone who aspires high. I have used this line as the name of this stone because the stone looks like a flying bird hovering high above the earth. Most f the ancient stones resemble natural scenic spots in shape, but only a few are pictographic, and even fewer are like this one: dynamic, natural, and vivid. What’s more, this stone boasts dramatic tendency in shape. While most of the stones in the shape of a bird need a wooden base to enhance its dynamic feelings, this one is exceptional, having both wings widely extended, and a long and slim lower body that gives the impression that the bird is soaring into the sky.
Scholars’ Rocks can either exhibit what are often ancient implications or modern feelings, and what are sometimes dynamic moments or static meditation. When most such stones give the viewer a sense of tranquility, a rare few like this one offer a sense of movement and excitement.
This Wen stone is 46 x 42 x 28 cm, and has an abundance of veins on the surface, with crisscross dots and strokes all over. It boasts dramatic changes in shape and is covered with thick natural patina, simple but vigorous. It can be viewed from all sides and produces resonant upon striking.
This stone has a base carved out of another stone and the traces of carving are almost invisible until one looks at its bottom.
“Heritage” Lingbi stone from Anhui province
By Sun Fuxin
Early civilizations worshiped the sun’s fire and its associated warmth and brightness. This Lingbi stone is one manifestation of fire, warmth, passion, and strength. It reminds us of our fascination with fire as a means of warding off evil spirits and providing a sense of auspiciousness.
This beautiful yellow Lingbi from Anhui province measures 49 cm x 20 cm x 85 cm and is named “Heritage” by its owner Mr. Sun Fuxin of Shanghai, China.
Yadan Stone “The Snail”
This figure-shaped Yadan stone resembles a giant snail. Its display on a large wooden slab with a small bronze snail reinforces the appearance of the stone to its real life counterpart. Yadan stones originate from the desert regions of Xinjiang Province in northwestern China. They have become popular viewing stones in China in recent years for their unusual shapes and surface texture patterns.
This stone is small by most Yadan stone standards, “The Snail” is only 15 cm wide, 13 cm deep, and 9 cm high and is owned by Glennis Bebb of Brisbane, Australia.
Bamboo stones from Zhejiang province
Bamboo stones, the first of the garden stones featured in this column, are used almost exclusively in garden settings rather than as indoor viewing stones. They are often seen in courtyard landscapes in classical Chinese gardens both in China and in traditional gardens built in western countries. They are typically displayed with living bamboo because the narrow, upright shapes are reminiscence of bamboo stems. These linear stones usually range between one and four meters in length. Because of their size, bamboo stones are displayed outdoors with the base of the stone buried in the earth. Smaller-sized stones may be displayed in large granite bases or bowls. The surface texture may resemble pine tree bark with the color varying from pale green to gray with shades of yellow and white irregular patches.
It is difficult to determine when these stones were first used in gardens; but there is pictographic evidence placing their use in the Qing dynasty. Jiao Bingzhen, a Qing dynasty artist, made a series of twelve paintings titled “Virtuous Empresses of Past Dynasties.” One of those paintings depicting the Empress Dowager Ma of the Eastern Han dynasty, and featured prominently in the center of the painting is a bamboo stone. We believe that Jiao was using a Qing dynasty garden setting as a model when making this painting because there is a lack of further evidence that these stones were used in garden settings at that time. It wasn’t until much later in the Ming dynasty that large irregularly shaped stones were prominently used in gardens.
According to Dr. Wen Qingbo, VSANA advisor and Associate Professor of Geology, these stones are a nodular limestone composed of clay and calcite. They originated long ago during the ancient Ordovician period. Bamboo stones are excavated from the Yanwashan Mountains in Zhejiang Province.
Iron Stones 鉄胆石 from Yunnan province
These stones are also known as bladder stones or Yunnan Gall stones and originate from the Dongchuan District in Yunnan province. They were first exhibited in 2004 in Kunming as a new entry into the array of stones embraced in Chinese stone appreciation. They are slowly gaining recognition as they are exhibited in other regions of China and as small sized examples are reaching Western countries. Geologically, these are concretions and according to Chinese geologists formed in ancient black shale 2.5 billion years ago, possibly earlier. Typically, they are rounded to oval in shape, but they may be occasionally be pit-, bowl-, or saucer-shaped. Occasionally two or three or more iron stones occur fused together. These stones are composed largely of iron sulfite condensates and are harder and denser than their host material. Many of these stones have varying patterns of pyrite crystals on the surface, typically, in a pattern of concentric circles, but these may also occur uniformly distributed or in patches. They vary in size from 5 to 30 cm across, although larger specimens are known, when two or more concretions are fused together.
As viewing stones, they are evaluated first by their shape, then by the pyrite patterns on the surface. Bowl- or pot-shaped stones are rarer and considered to more valuable. Because they are relatively new to the viewing stone world and they are fairly uniform in shape and color, stones command modest prices. They have considerable appeal to mineral collectors and mineralogists. (See galleries for more images of iron stones)
Sanjiang Stones (Three Rivers Stones)
These attractive river cobbles have been growing steadily in popularity among collectors of modern Chinese stones. While there is considerable variation among these stones, those with a dark background contrasting with a red pattern are more sought after and more highly valued. Some Sanjiang stones are almost completely red. It is not unusual to find other colors including brown, tan, and yellow in these stones, but their presence generally decreases the monetary value of the stones.
The stones originate from Sanjiang county in northern Guangxi province and are found in one of three rivers. They are considered to be metamorphic rocks composed primarily of chert, jasper, and iron oxides. A Sanjiang stone is very hard (6-7 on the Mohs scale), dense, and typically has a smooth surface from the constant abrading action of the rocky river bottoms in these fast flowing rivers.
These stones can be found in markets throughout southern China, but are especially plentiful in Guangxi province. They are completely natural and have not been worked. Some dealers will put a fine coat of Vaseline or mineral oil on these stones. This intensifies the colors which make them more attractive to some collectors. Other collectors, including ourselves, prefer the more subtle colors of the natural stones without an oil coating. The application of oil in China is often considered to be a preservation technique; however, we have not seen adequate documentation that this treatment actually preserves the stones.
In Guangxi province, the dark color-- almost black-- with bright red contrasting patterns is sometimes referred to as “Luizhou Black.” We have also seen a variety of high quality Sanjiang stone referred to as Guilin Chicken Blood Stone. These Guilan stones have beautiful, sharply contrasting colors, and composed of jasper and iron oxides. The true Chicken Blood Stones are quite different and have been used for over 300 years in China to make stone chops or seals and for viewing stones. The reddish colors of true Chicken Blood stones are composed of arsenic sulphate and have a completely different pattern (See Gallery Section for an example).
Huadu Chrysanthemum Stone
This month’s feature stone is a rare Huadu chrysanthemum stone from the Huadu District of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province in southeastern China. These white to yellowish-cream colored stones originate from one location--Chrysanthemum Mountain. The stones have densely clustered, radiating, flower-like crystals. A research team from the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan recently studied these stones. The team determined that the petal-like crystals are composed of quartz and the central core of the flower-like structures and the matrix are composed of quartz with sericite, plagioclase, kaolinite, and limonite. The stones formed in a volcanic vent when magma was extruded to the surface about 150 million years ago. This type of chrysanthemum stone is much younger and of a different geological origin than the more common type of chrysanthemum stones found in Hubei, Hunan, and other provinces of China.
This nearly pure white stone is 24 cm high, 16 cm deep, and 10.5 cm deep. The base is carved to resemble tree roots. These stones are rarely seen outside of Guangdong Province. There are a limited number of these stones available today in the marketplace and collecting these stones on Chrysanthemum Mountain is prohibited.
Rain Flower Stone
The beautiful, small, natural Rain Flower Pebble came from an ancient large gravel deposit in Luhe District near Nanjing. The smooth surface and rounded shape are the result of millions of years of tumbling action with sand and gravel in an extinct stream. This is a well worn agate measuring 5.5 cm long, 4.5 cm wide and 1.5 cm thick. The banding pattern is typical of one category of Rain Flower Pebble highly valued in China. Color, shape, and the banding pattern are all key features of this stone.
“Contemplation” Chinese turquoise
This beautiful piece of Chinese turquoise has a highly irregular shape pierced with several holes, and is reminiscent of the more common Taihu stone except for its color. Turquoise as a viewing stone is rare, and typically is not seen in stone markets. Most Chinese turquoise is processed into jewelry; only a few extraordinary pieces are sold as viewing stones or as semi-precious stones. “Contemplation” is 26 cm high including its base, 10 cm wide and 6 cm deep. Turquoise is formed when ground water percolates through rock that contains aluminum, copper, and phosphorous, and is often associated with copper mines. Its collection and use in China dates back 3,700 years or more.
This intricate, yet delicate and fragile, Kun Stone requires study and contemplation because of its complex structure. The numerous cavities, thin walls, holes, and variations may elicit a feeling of elegance, transparency, and even purity. This stone measures 22 cm high, 19 cm wide, and 12 cm deep and rests on an intricate, hand-made, 14 cm high hardwood base. An elaborate base such as this is appropriate for a complex Kun Stone.
“Sentinel” petrified wood
This bold fragment of petrified wood from Xinjiang province in northwestern China makes a beautiful viewing stone. A large side branch is present its the right side. This stone resulted from the gradual infiltration of mineral rich water into the wood fragment over thousands of years and the minerals eventually replaced all the wood with stone. This piece measures 48 cm high, 19 cm wide at the broadest point, and 14 cm deep. Stones resulting from mineral deposits that gradually turn wood into stone are relatively common in China and are found in many places. Larger specimens make beautiful garden stones, while smaller ones like this make interesting indoor viewing stones.
Peony Stone (牡丹石)
This is one of our favorite peony stones because of the shape of the stone and the pattern of mineral deposits. It is attractive from any angle and can even project an image of a person wrapped in a blanket. Peony stones can occasionally be found in markets in both an unpolished and polished conditions. Normally, we prefer completely natural unpolished stones; however, in this case, the polished stone has a more elegant appearance. This stone is 40 cm high, 17 cm wide, and 14 cm deep
Chrysanthemum Flower Stone
This is an attractive Hubei province chrysanthemum flower stone held in a natural root base. The stone and base together measures 65 cm high, 32 cm wide, and 8 cm thick. The matrix stone is ancient — 250 million years old. It is marine limestone with white calcite or celestite mineral formations resembling flowers.
Small Lingbi figure stones
Most Lingbi are medium - to large-size stones, but this little gem measures just 10 cm wide and about 5 cm high and wide. This turtle-like figure stone is complimented with an exquisitely carved hard wood base. Small Lingbi figure stones like this are rare and are becoming fashionable and in demand in China today. This stone is for sale in a Changzhou stone market.
Ying Stone from Guangdong province
This attractive Ying Stone from the Yingde Mountains in Guangdong province is one of the classic stones of ancient China. It exhibits all of the criteria established by the famous calligrapher and stone connoisseur Mi Fu 900 years ago for evaluating stones. That is, it has channels (lou), holes (tou), thinness (shou), and wrinkles (zhou). This is a thin piece of heavily weathered limestone that measures 46 cm high, 22 cm wide, and only 9 cm deep.
Tranquil Mountains, Far from the Emperor
Youlan Stone (幽兰石, Youlan shi), Guangxi Province
This dynamic stone originates from a mountain stream in southwestern China and is reminiscent of the steeply rising mountain ranges in different regions of China including the well-known Yellow Mountains of Anhui province. Mountainous areas like this attracted the literati who wanted to escape the drudgery of their bureaucratic positions and to retreat to the remote areas to contemplate, compose poetry, paint, and write. In Imperial China, Buddhist and Taoists monks retreated to monasteries high in mountains like these. While giving the impression that this is a huge stone, it is actually only 21 cm wide, 8 cm high, and 7 cm deep at its widest point. Youlan stones often resemble mountain ranges and make excellent viewing stones.
This small piece, likely brown weathered quartz, is a Gobi Desert stone shaped by thousands of years of blowing winds laden with sand that slowly wore away the softer portions of the stone. This fish-shaped stone is 11 cm high, 21.5 wide, and 7.5 cm deep. It rests on a beautiful, hand-carved base representing waves in water. Coelacanth is a prized stone in the private collection of Manette Gerstle. Our thanks to Gerstle for permission to feature this outstanding stone. Photograph by Fernando Aguila.
This attractive pattern stone came from the headwaters of the Yellow River in Qinghai Province. It is a river cobble which is an abundant type in many of the major rivers; however, stones with beautiful or interesting patterns are not common. The Yellow River and the more southern Yangtze River are major sources of quality river cobble pattern stones like this one. It measures 15 x 14 x 4.2 cm, not including the wooden base.
“Royal Fruit of the Desert”
This and other fine grape agates are mined from a single location about 300 km from Alashan in Inner Mongolia. The Alashan Zuo Qi Shen Shan Tian Ran Manao Kuang is the only mine in China producing these specimens. The stone itself is 18 x 15 x 11 cm without the base and is deep purple, covered with numerous small- to medium-sized, lighter colored, grape-like agate spheres. These grape-like clusters are more abundant on the upper half of the base stone.
“Worn But Not Gone” Gobi Desert Stone
This attractive stone from the Gobi Desert is reminiscent of an ancient, strongly weathered mountain in this desert. Others may experience a sense of motion from the undulating layers of stone. It has been shaped by thousands of years of exposure to blowing sand-filled winds. This stone is likely composed of layers of silica dioxide with impurities such as iron oxides providing its color. The shiny finish results from years of sand naturally abrading and polishing the surface. It is shown here without a base to fully illustrate the many layers comprising this stone and to emphasize that collectors should focus first on the qualities of the stone before considering the a base or tray. This stone was purchased in the Yinchuan Stone Market in 2004. Stones like this are now hard to find in Gobi Desert marketplaces. It is about 5 cm high, 17.8 cm wide, and 7.6 cm deep.
Rose Stone (玫瑰石, Meigui shi)
We’ve selected a beautiful and colorful Meigui stone from Taiwan to celebrate the New Year, the Year of the Horse. Also called the Rose stone because of the manganese inosilicate mineral known as Rhodonite. These stones originate in Taiwan and are polished to bring out the color and patterns. Stone exhibits in Taiwan and in southern China often feature several of these stones.
Ginger Stone ( 姜石, Jiang shi)
We start the New Year of the Horse with an appropriate figure stone. Although Ginger stones have a long history in Chinese pharmacy, they have only been used as viewing stones in recent years. The shapes of these stone closely resemble the ginger root in shape and color, hence, it’s name. They occur in loess soils and are red calcareous concretions composed primarily of calcite, quartz, and clay minerals may contain many other secondary minerals. They are found in several provinces including Jiangsu, Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and the prefecture-level city of Xingtai.
Watermelon Stone (西瓜石, Xigua-shi)
This is an exceptionally large watermelon stone that is treated as a figure. Most are prized for their texture and surface color. They are found only in shallow waters off the coast of selected areas of Taiwan. These natural smooth to slightly bumpy stones have an interesting pattern of net-like darker lines highlighting a lighter green, light aquamarine to gray surface colors. Many of these stones are small to medium size, but this one is over a meter wide, nearly a meter high and less than a meter wide.
Food Stones (食物石, shiwu)
This plate of meat, perhaps cooked pork, looks tempting, but it is better to look than taste. Each piece is actually a stone that resembles an edible treat. Food stones, a broad, general category of viewing stones, are not categorized within a specific stone type, but can be any of several different types of stones—agates, chalcedony, jaspers, and others. Collecting food stones is popular in China today. The majority of the stones originate in the Gobi Desert in the general region of Alashan in Inner Mongolia. Both the Feature Book Review and the Feature Article of the month focus on food stones.
Ink Lake Stones (Mohu shi, 墨湖石)
Ink Lake stones are found in unusual shapes and sizes due to natural weathering of the soft limestone. This stone originated in Guangxi Province. It is likely that the shape and holes were enhanced by stone workers to increase the stone’s attractiveness, as is sometimes the case with these stones. This stone was for sale in a shop in the Shanghai Wan Chun Yuan Landscape and Viewing Stone Market in 2013. It is about 25 cm (about 10 inches) high.
A siliceous gall stone owned by Mihail Blagoveshenskiy of Vladimir, Russia is featured this month. The appearance of this stone reminds many of an old Chinese legend concerning a man and the dragon he raised.
Cui Hai Zi lived on a small tract of land he owned at the base of a large mountain. Cui was skilled at repairing equipment. One day he found a small dragon while walking along a road. He put it in a box and took it home. As he fed the tiny dragon, it began to grow very rapidly and soon outgrew the box. The animal continued to grow until it outgrew Cui's small home. Cui told the dragon “I earn just a little money and you are so big now that I cannot afford to feed you. I’m going to take you to live in a big cave high in the mountain.” The dragon agreed and Cui led the dragon to the cave.
A valuable medicinal herb grew close to the cave, but people were afraid to venture near the cave. One day, the Emperor heard about the miraculous plant and ordered that some of the roots of this plants be brought to him. But everyone was afraid to go and collect the plant because of the huge fearsome serpent. So the local governor told Cui to go and gather some of the roots or lose his head if he failed. Cui went high up the mountain to the cave. Cui was trembling when he cried out “dear dragon, I raised you. Please save me now by letting me dig some roots and take them to the Emperor.” The dragon agreed and Cui was able to take the plants and save his life.
A year later, the Empress developed a serious eye problem and was going blind. Her doctor said that the only way to cure her was to rub her eyes with the eye of a dragon. But, the only dragon was fierce and even 1,000 of the Emperor’s soldiers couldn’t defeat it. The Emperor ordered Cui to obtain the eye of the dragon to cure his wife’s illness. Cui went again to the cave and in great fear told the dragon about why he came. The dragon again approved and giant tears flowed down across the dragon’s face as Cui removed one of the dragon’s eyes.
Cui took the eye to the Empress and she rubbed the eye on her own eyes. A little later, the Empress’ eyes began to improve and soon her eye sight was fully restored. The Emperor was so happy that he appointed Cui as a minster and gave him an estate, money, and servants. Cui lived carefree and had everything he wanted. Soon, Cui changed and became greedy and evil and thought only of himself. He knew that a dragon’s eye was very valuable, so he decided to go back to the cave and ask the dragon for his other eye. Cui had his servants carry him on a palanquin to the mouth of the cave. He asked the dragon for his other eye. The dragon looked at Cui, lowered his head down to Cui and swallowed him whole.
Pan Gong Stone (庞公石)
This Pan Gong stone was shaped by water and sand over thousands of years in a river in Gansu province in northwestern China. Standing on end, the stone reminds us of some of the sharply rising mountains in western China. Or, it could be one side of a steep canyon wall moist with dripping water after the sun has dropped below the horizon. Lingering in a narrow canyon as the sun is setting can reveal some beautiful light patterns and colors, but darkness comes quickly to these canyons for those who overstay their visit. The stone is 40 cm high, 38 cm wide and 18 cm deep, weighs nearly 50 kilograms, and is in the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
Dali Marble (大理石 dalishi)
This remarkable piece of Dali marble has seldom-seen colors and an interesting pattern that looks like the head of a dragon in the upper left portion of this stone. It appears like the animal is turning back to face us. Is steam coming from its nostrils or are those horns? The combination of colors and pattern make this a highly sought after piece. It is valued at two million RMB (about $330,000) by its owner, Dr. Yang Junbing. We saw this stone panel in Dr. Yang’s home along with hundreds of other extraordinary pieces, large and small, of Dali picture stones. The stone slab measures 53 x 44 cm (20.8 x 17.3 inches).
Laibin water pool stone
This beautiful, dark water pool stone originated from a river in the Laibin area of Guangxi Province, China. The hand-carved hard base is a traditional style that complements the stone. A natural overflow or spillway is located on the right front side of the pool. This excellent stone measures 34 cm wide, 30.5 cm deep and 10 cm high, and is owned by Lindsay Bebb, Brisbane, Australia.
Yangtze River Cobble (黄河石)
This beautiful pattern stone was found by Freeman Wang in a huge pile of cobbles removed from the Yangtze River for use in construction. It was fortunate that he found this before it was crushed. It is a medium-sized stone 22 cm high, 20 cm wide, and 6.6 cm deep. The calcite patterns resembles orchids that are loved by many Chinese. Some westerner observers of this stone see a “bird-of-paradise” pattern, while others may see a bamboo leaf pattern. Regardless, this is a great stone. The ability to communicate different meanings to viewers in different regions of the world is an important aspect of stone appreciation.
“Waves of the mind or the sea?”
This beautiful Long River (Yangtze) cobble has been naturally worn smooth in the waters of the largest river in China. The fascinating layered pattern are reminiscent of ocean waves in a storm. Or, these may be endless waves in space or in one’s mind. Regardless, it is a stone that evokes feelings from viewers. This stone is 21 cm high, 17 cm wide and 6 cm deep; while the hand carved wood base with a water and fish motif is 10.8 cm high at its highest point, 17.5 cm wide and 9.5 cm deep at the bottom. It is in the collection of Tom Elias & Hiromi Nakaoji.
January Stone of the Month 当月赏石
Bamboo-leaf pattern stone 竹叶石
This impressive pattern stone with its bamboo-leaf-like mineral formations is typically associated with Chinese arts and literature. Bamboo is not only highly esteemed but also one of the versatile and important economic plants in China. It is composed of ancient Cambrian period carbonate sedimentary rock with calcite deposits that form the often elegant leaf-like structures. This stone, from the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji, is 20 cm wide, 28 cm high, and 7 cm deep without the base.
February Stone of the Month 当月赏石
This beautiful pure black Malaysian river stone is dynamic yet elegant and conveys an image of a strong and ancient warrior. It is easy to imagine the well-developed muscles and strong arms on this mighty figure. A figure worthy of admiration, Jeneral measures 19 x 28 x 20 cm and is owned by Tai Boon Wah, a Malaysian collector of fine stones.
March Stone of the Month 当月赏石
Moore Stone (摩尔石)
These stones were raised from a river in Guangxi Province, China. They are medium- to large-size, are found in wonderful and fascinating shapes, and are gray to grayish-bronze in color. Some of these resemble Henry Moore sculpture, hence the modern name for these stones. They were once used to sharpen scissors and knives. This figure stone, which measures 34 cm wide, 24 cm high, and 18 cm deep, is in the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
April Stone of the Month 当月赏石
“Bowing to the Master”
These two Indonesian stones complement each other beautifully and make an effective display. The “master” is a Padang stone measuring 9 x 31 x 10 cm, while the “common man” is from Medan, North Sumatra, and is 21 x 23 x 9 cm. Both stones are part of the private collection of Budi Sulistyo.
May Stone of the Month 当月赏石
“Far View Bluff” Grass Flower Stone
Grass flower stones can have highly varied patterns on their polished surfaces. Some have abstract patterns, but the stones with a discernable landscape scene are considered to be more desirable. The pattern on “Far View Bluff” may remind us of a steep bluff that drops sharply into a valley. This stone is 20 cm high, 15 cm wide, and 6.5 cm deep. See the feature article for more information about this common and relatively inexpensive stone type.
June Stone of the Month 当月赏石
Hanjiang River Stone (汉江石)
The shape, color and movement of this large, beautiful Hanjiang River stone from Hubei province makes this an exceptional piece. It is one of the many outstanding stones on display at the Wuhan Chinese Stone Museum. Does the orientation make it a playful or a respectful pose as one is bowing to another?
July Stone of the Month 当月赏石
This is a fascinating natural, two-toned, Philippine river cobble. The darker, lower portion area of this stone gives the distinct impression of a distant horizon. The stone is 13 x 7 x 14 cm and is held in a base that was hand carved in the Philippines. Jesus Galahad C. Vergara, the owner, made this Japanese style display using an accent plant and display table.
August Stone of the Month 当月赏石
This fragile appearing foraminate stone has a rough surface texture. It has been mounted on an exquisite, hand-carved raised base that replicated the many holes in the stone. This intriguing stone, excluding the base, measures 22 cm high, 17 cm wide, and 8.5 cm deep It is well balanced in its base. This stone originated in Guangxi Province in southern China and was purchased from a well-informed, second generation stone dealer in Shanghai. It resides in the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
September Stone of the Month 当月赏石
This colorful and very heavy stone is typical of many locations in Australia where mountains are virtually non-existent, but escarpments are common. Thus, it is representative of the Australian landscape. It was collected by Brenda Parker in the Shoalhaven River in the eastern portion of her native country. The stone, from Parker’s collection of native viewing stones, is 26 cm wide, 10 cm high, and 10 cm deep.
October Stone of the Month
“Traveling on the Wave of Life”
This animal figure stone from the Gobi Desert is riding high a series of waves. It may be a turtle, snail, or some mythical figure, perhaps a twisting turtle, from the two thousand year old Chinese classical work The Guideways Through Mountains and Seas (Shanhaijing). The stone, a strongly weathered piece of jasper, rests on a beautiful hand-carved base. The significance of the waves rising from a platform is unknown; however, it adds an element of movement to the figure stone.
The stone is 12 cm wide, 8 cm high, and 7 cm deep; while the base is slightly larger--12 cm wide, 7 cm high, and 10 cm deep. It is in the personal collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石
“The Refreshing Wind”
This is a dynamic black shelter Touch Stone (试金石) from Guangdong province in southern China. This jet black, basaltic river stone is skillfully positioned on a platform-style base to create a resting or gathering place for friends to meet and debate a philosophical topic. This stone, collected by Luo Dongchao, was exhibited in the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Guangzhou during the joint Bonsai Clubs International and Asia Pacific Bonsai and Suiseki (ASPAC) convention held in September 2015.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石
This large Palombino stone from Liguria, Italy was found by Luciana Queirolo and was displayed at the 18th annual exhibition and convention of the Associazione Italiana Amatori Suiseki (AIAS) held near Naples, Italy October 10-11, 2015. It is a beautiful landscape stone. Luciana described this stone after she had found it. She wrote:
“Travel to the mountains and seas ... looking for an ideal, or for soul mate of the object of desire: in our case, of a stone.
How many kilometers we have covered, in the car and on foot!
Then, you take a walk around your workplace, because you do not have time to go farther. And this stone, surrounded and obscured by empty bottles and plastic plates left by tourists, was there waiting for me."
Luciana Queirolo is the president of AIAS and one of Italy great collectors of stones from Liguria.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石
Turtle-Shell Pattern Stone (龟纹石)
This black turtle-shell stone is a partially flatten sphere with a network of veins on both the front and back. It is thickest in the middle and tapers towards the rounded edges. This stone is 16 cm wide and 5 cm thick near the center. It is a sedimentary rock from Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan Provinces and probably similar stones occur in other provinces. The intricate base holds the stone high in a respectful position. This stone is in the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
Turtles are respected animals that are associated with longevity in Asian cultures. Small turtle ponds can often be found in many Buddhist temples.
Stone of the Month
Furuya Stone (古谷石)
“Clouds Coming and Going”
This beautiful Furuya stone from Wakayama, Japan was in the private collection of Suzuki Koji for over forty years. Suzuki obtained the stone from Mr. Tanimoto, his daiza teacher. The base for this stone was one of the early Suzuki bases that he made before he became a professional daiza carver. The kiri bako box writing for this stone was made by Tanimoto. Suzuki sold this stone to Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji in 2014. Sadly, Mr. Susuki died in November 2015. This stone is 24.5 cm wide, 8 cm high and 7.5 cm deep.
Mountains rising from clouds or surrounded by clouds and mist has direct association with aspects of Daoism where clouds are believed to be the roots of mountains. It is a stone with many features that convey different feelings to the viewer, depending upon their background and experiences.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 March
This 19th century Ying stone was donated in 2015 to the Musée Guimet, France's National Museum of Asian Arts, in Paris. It is the first Chinese viewing stone to enter the vast collections of this leading museum and is now on display with other scholar's objects.
According to the donors Joseph and Jana Roussel, "the stone has an eye-catching shape with interesting views from all sides. The view in the photo evokes a lady dancing with arms delicately raised like the courtesans in the famous painting “Spring Morning in the Han Palace” by Qiu Ying. The surface of the other side (not shown) appears jagged, masculine and looks like an abstract modern painting."
The stone is 33 cm x 45 x 14 cm and the Northern style base is made of Nanmu wood.
photo copyright 2012by Laura Mah
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 April
Chrysanthemum Flower Stone 菊花石
This is an outstanding example of high quality polished Neo Valley chrysanthemum flower stone that clearly resembles a large bouquet. What makes this an excellent viewing stone is its pleasant balanced shape, good distribution of individual flower-like mineral formations, very well defined individual “flowers” with distinct centers and ray petals, nice color contrast between the “flowers,” and the color of the matrix stone. This combination of fine features is exceedingly rare.
Based on information contained on the stone’s storage box, in the 1960s, this stone was housed in the Aiseki Museum in Ibigawa. After the museum closed, it eventually came into the procession of a physican who collected stones, and it was held by him for many years. After his death, the stone became available in early 2016 and was acquired by Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji. The stone is 30 cm high and 20 cm at its widest point.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 May
“Last Flower of Autumn”
Naturally occurring Neo Valley Chrysanthemum stones are very rare. The radiating three dimensional calcite crystals of “Last Flower of Autumn” form an attractive pattern and the contrast between the “flower-like” mineral formations and the color of the matrix stone is excellent. The stone—14.5 cm wide, 13.5 cm high, and 8 cm deep—has a slightly rough texture over most its surface, and does not appear to have been polished or worked. There is a second less well defined “flower” on the reverse side of the stone.
The stone originated in Neo Valley in Gifu Prefecture; however, the exact date of its collection is unknown. It was acquired in the early 1980s by George Yamaguchi, a bonsai nurseryman in West Los Angeles and sold to Ralph Johnson in 1987. This was Johnson’s first chrysanthemum stone. It remained in his collection until April 21, 2011 when he presented this stone to Tom Elias.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 June
This wax stone was in the collection of Huang Jiu Wei, a well-known stone collector and bonsai artist, from Guangzhou, China before it was presented to Thomas Elias. Huang and Elias became good friends while working together on many bonsai and stone related projects over several years. This completely natural stone is 11.5 cm wide, 12.5 cm high and 7.2 cm deep. The beautifully carved, intricate base has a a flower and bamboo motif. This stone was named “Friendship” in recognition of friendship that developed between these two stone connoisseurs.
Wax stones from southern China have been collected and appreciated for their aesthetic qualities for several hundred years due to their lustrous wax-like appearance and a variety of fascinating shapes and surface texture patterns. The stones are hard because of their high silica dioxide content and range from yellow, yellowish-brown, or red, to almost black.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 July
This stone has an outstanding shape and is very attractive to all viewers in any exhibition. It is an excellent piece of art which gives a strong visual and emotional statement to all viewers. The stone is reminiscent of a famous Henry Moore stone sculpture which has a Mohs hardness of 4-5. However, this viewing stone has a Mohs hardness of 6 & above. Generally, there is a direct relationship between the hardness and shape of a stone. In other words, the harder the stone, the more unlikely it is to have a favorable shape. This particular stone is not only hard but also has an excellent shape, a combination that is difficult to find. The shape of this stone resembles a gigantic wave in motion engulfing viewers and hitting against their feelings like waves hitting a beach. The outer surface of this stone has visible “water” lines and curling motion which gives a strong feel of a wave. The inner surface of the stone has varying ripples and lines. Therefore, although this stone looks simple and smooth, it is indeed a very interesting stone for viewing. This stone has an adequate thickness and has silky smooth and yet strong lines. This stone can be viewed from many angles. For example, the back of stone looks like a long hat while other angles look like an eagle or a killer whale. It is 37 cm wide, 45 cm high and 23 cm deep and was found in the Ti Ti River, Pahang, Malaysia. It is in the private collection of Dr. Zhang Guo Shun.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 August
This limestone composition stone was collected in Wyoming and has the poetic name "Glacial Canyons" as it reminds the owner of the appearance of a glacial carved mountain landscape with deep canyons. The stone is 43 x 20 x 10 cm. The base was carved of cherry by the owner and collector Paul Gilbert.
Stone of the Month
Most Imperial Chinese literati believed that rocks are the bones of the earth and that the essence of the energy of the heaven-earth world coalesces into rock. That energy can be seen in the folds and movement of the upper half of this water-worn rock from Guangxi province. The lower smoother half provides a stable foundation for the churning energy above. Some may refer to this rock as a Ma’an stone; however, it is synonymous with the better known Caitao stone. It originates in the Liuzhou region of Gunagxi province. This block-shaped stone is 25 cm wide, 18 cm high and 18 cm deep and is in the collection of Tom Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 October
“Land of Morning Freshness”
This Korean native stone from the Han River combines ancient Kwaesuk qualities of strange compelling texture with contemporary suiseki-style landscape form. The very delicate embedded pattern of fine white lines is especially prized by Korean collectors. The many depredations of war and incursion throughout Korean history, and continuing into modern times, have obscured the continuity, provenance and historical inventory of Korean stone collecting. This stone is 30 cm wide, 14 cm high, and 13 cm deep and is owned by Don and Chung Kruger.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 November
“You listen to the wind clamber on the summit…the valley of the lake”
This large Italian Ligurian landscape stone was given the top award, the best in the show, in the recent 2016 AIAS exhibition in Bodeno at Gonzaga. It is an impressive stone with a deep valley between the two main mountain peaks, the source of a narrow waterfall that cascades down a steep slope. This stone is owned and exhibited by Ettore Gardini.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 December
In western societies, this stone might be viewed as a natural arch. However, in Chinese society, one can easily view this as a gateway—either a symbolic gateway to immortality or a connection between the physical body and the spiritual world. These two themes are found in the composite Taoist religion in China. Early Chinese emperors and high-level bureaucrats eagerly sought a pathway to immortality, and for many decades ingested special elixirs comprised of a mixture of minerals as a means of achieving their goal. None of them achieved this goal, and as some of the ingredients were toxic, this practice was eventually abandoned as an element of Taoism.
This arch-shaped black Lingbi stone is from northern Anhui province in eastern China. It is 28 cm wide, 22 cm high, and 12 cm deep, and is owned by Thomas Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji. The low platform base is appropriate for this stone.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 January
“Japanese Furuya Stone”
This small rugged Furuya stone was collected approximately 50 years ago in Wakayama prefecture. The small tunnel on the left side of the stone is reminiscent of a coastal scene. The beautifully detailed base was made by the late Tanimoto Hyakusui, one of the finest base carvers for Furuya stones.
This stone was in the personal collection of the late physician, Dr. Matsuyama Tomonaka for many years. Thus, the provenance of this stone has some historical interest and adds to its value. This stone is 14 cm wide, 7.5 cm high, and 7.5 cm deep without the base.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 February
“Bird of Prey”
This figure stone is suggestive of a large bird of prey, perhaps an eagle searching the landscape for its next meal. The suggestive nature of this California stone is one of the important features of a quality viewing stone. It is a Murphys stone, named from the location where it was found—Murphys, in northern California. This is a combination of limestone and quartz. While most of these stones are seen as dynamic landscape scenes, rarely is a good figure stone found in this species of rock. It was found by Ken McLeod and was a part of his personal stone collection for many years. This stone is 26 cm wide, 20 cm high, and 12 cm deep without the base.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 March
“Once in a Lifetime” (Ichigo Ichie)
This elegant shaped, black basaltic stone was found on a beach in Denmark in 2005 by Yvonne Graubaek. It is a completely natural stone whose black color contrasted with the common gray stones on the beach. Graubaek felt a sense of quiet, soft calmness and a feeling of happiness when she viewed this stone. These feelings occurred on the day she collected the stone and they continue to the present. The feelings that this stone generates when viewed is extraordinary. Graubaek personally carved the hardwood base for this stone. Her modern style base beautifully matches the shape of the stone. She had a Paulownia box made for this stone in Japan. The name comes from the rare opportunity to find a stone of this caliber.
“Once in a Lifetime” was exhibited at the European Suiseki Association’s 2011 convention in Prague, Czeck Republic. It was given the best foreign category award in the exhibition. The stone is 17cm wide, 7.5 cm high and 11 cm deep.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 April
While this Julong Bi stone (Nine Dragon River) stone was probably not one that Xu Xiake saw when he visited Fujian province 500 years ago, and wrote about them in his travel diaries, he does remind us of the role that interesting stones played in the lives of the poets, painters, writers, and calligraphers in Imperial China. This stone resembles the face of a cliff with a possible entry way into a cave. It measures 23 cm (9inches) wide, 12 cm (4.7 inches) high and 16 cm (6/3 inches) deep.
Even though Jiulong Bi stones have been admired in China since the Tang dynasty more than 1,000 years ago, they are not well known in stone appreciation communities in western countries. They have all the attributes of a good viewing stone—very hard, wrinkles surface texture, muted colors, and typically found in forms that are like landscapes or figures.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 May
This scenic stone reminiscent of a plateau with a low mountain range in back was found in the Seta River many years ago. The surface of this stone is referred to as a pear skin, typical of many other stones found in this river. The exquisite hand crafted base was carved by Tanimoto Hyakusui. His signature was carved on the bottom of this base. The name “Great Peace” was written on the front of the storage box (kiri bako) along with “Setagawa pear-skin tiger stone.” “Great peace” was exhibited in the first Japan Suiseki Exhibition held in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in 2014.
The stone with its low profile and aged patina typically evokes a quiet peaceful mood when it is viewed. It is 33.5 cm wide, 6.3 cm high and 8.5 cm deep.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 June
The idea that all stones must represent a landscape or have a serious interpretation is a mistaken notion. There is a lighter side to stone appreciation that is sometimes overlooked by stone collectors. This stone could represent a playful puppy, tailing wagging back and forth, happy to see his friend returning home from school or work. Amusement or comedy is one function of art.
This is an Ligurian Palombino stone from Italy. It was collected by the late Angelo Attina, one of the great collectors of these stones. The stone itself is 18.5 cm (7.3 inches) wide, 14 cm (5.5 inches) high, 13.5 cm (5.3 inches) deep. The orientation of the stone on this base helps convey the impression of a figure.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 July
Jiulong Bi Stone (九龙江石)
“Old Man (寿者)”
This heavily weathered Juilong Bi or Nine Dragon River stone suggests an old person, perhaps even a sage, with its wrinkles, folds, and shape. The cataracts in this river have produced many extraordinary hard, multi-colored wrinkled stones. The presence of silica and other silicate minerals contribute to the hardness and weight of this stone. Because of their attractive features, Jiulong Bi stones were described in the early travel literature and in Ming and Qing dynasty poems.
The hardwood base was designed by Chen Shihong and crafted in his shop, Mushichuanzun, in Shanghai. He calls this a Cloud Ming style base (云彩明式座). Chen is a leader in the design and creation of contemporary bases for Chinese stones. The flowing lines of this base are typical of a more modern approach to base making. The stone is 10 cm wide, 21 cm high, and 8 cm deep. This stone is in the collection of Thomas Elias and Hiromi Nakaoji.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 August
“La Viuda Negra” (Black Widow)
This extraordinary, natural figure stone with its graceful flowing form was collected in the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) in northwestern Argentina by Alejandro Bonardi. The Sweet River crosses the province of Santiago del Estero. After studying this stone Bonardi choose a vertical orientation. It reminded him of a lady dressed in black, expressing mourning. She was mourning the fact that this river has become polluted and is suffering like so many other rivers in the world. The stone is crying out for help for the Rio Dulce.
“La Viuda Negra” is a small stone measuring just 9 cm high and 3.7 cm wide. Bonardi carved a based from pink cedar wood and then stained it with a combination of natural tannins and dark oak to achieve this color. This stone is in Bonardi’s personal collection.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 September
This large Kamuikotan stone was collected in the Ishikari River reportedly in the Meiji period. It was first used as a garden stone, then later brought indoors for display as a suiskei. There are two rounded, naturally formed depressions in the center of this stone with an overflow channel on the lower right side. Mr. Sugo Minetaka, owner of this stone, felt awed by its tremendous natural power and couldn’t sleep for several nights after acquiring this stone. He is amazed by the work that nature can accomplish.
Sugo named this stone “Daisen,” a Buddhist term for a deep mountain or enchanted land that is a state of enlightenment. His father was a monk with the given name Daisen. This stone was selected as one of the 100 best susieki in Japan and displayed at the 8th World Bonsai Convention held in Saitama City, Japan, April 27-30, 2017. It is an exceptionally fine water pool stone with dark eggplant blue color, very hard, and wonderful surface texture.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 October
The name of this figure stone from Sagit County, Washington can be traced to the Native American name for bison. The bison is resting with its legs folded beneath its body and its head facing to the left. The base, carved by Edd Kuehn, represents a prairie environment, home of these large western mammals. The stone is 21 cm (8.25 inches) wide, 16.5 cm (6.5 inches) tall, and 8.9 cm (3.5 inches) deep. It was collected by and is owned by Edd Kuehn.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 November
Too often, stone collectors think that excellent stones must be large, elaborate landscape scenes or stones with intricately carved bases that help convey a message. Sometimes, a simple quiet stone displayed on a modest table can be effective in creating a mood. Such is the case with this small unobtrusive Sado Island akadama stone with a wrinkled texture and subtle colors including red, black, brown, and tan. The simple base complements the stone rather than competing with it. Simplicity can be beautiful. This stone is 18 cm (7 inches) wide, 7.3 cm (2.9 inches) high and 7.8 cm (3 inches) deep. It is displayed on a plain, low, black-lacquered Japanese table
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 December
The large natural hole in this vertically-oriented Chinese Lingbi stone is unusual for this stone type. That the stone can be rotated and viewed from different angles adds to its interest. This Lingbi stone has the four attributes for excellent stones that were developed by Shu Shi over 900 years ago—shou (thinness), lou (channels), tou (holes), and zhou (wrinkles). Some stone enthusiasts will view this as a scenic landscape stone with a narrow archway; while students of ancient Chinese literature may link it to a poem or ancient classic literature or a natural feature such as heaven's gate in Hunan province or in the Shilin Stone Forest in Yunnan province. The stone without the base is 13.5 cm (5 inches) wide, 30 cm (12 inches) high, and 8 cm (3 inches) deep. A small carved wooden figure added for seasonal interest stands in amazement of this stone.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 January
Standing 17 cm (6.7 inches) high, this beautiful, natural stone conveys a strong feeling of movement as the finger-like grooves curve gently to the left. The concept of movement is frequently discussed and highly valued in bonsai styling, but is not often discussed as a feature of quality viewing stones. The appearance of movement in stone can result from a folding movement caused by intense heat and pressure. This stone, however, was formed by another totally different process. That is the mineralization or petrifaction of an object. In this case, a petrified elephant or mammoth tooth was the object of transformation. Regardless of how it was formed, this specimen makes an excellent viewing stone, one that appears to be full of energy. This hand- or flame-shaped stone rests on a pedestal style base. It is in the private collection of Zhou Zheng Rong in Shanghai.
Stone of the Month 当月赏石 February
This imposing natural landscape stone gives the impression of a distant mountain range as seen from above. The sharply rising peaks on the left side of this stone give way to a prominent ridge, both indicators of a younger mountain range that is still increasing in height. This attractive stone was collected many years ago by the late Angelo Attina, one of Italy’s premier stone collectors. This beautiful stone is 39 cm wide, 8 cm high, and 24 cm deep, and has a natural, uncut bottom. The base was carved by Attina.