Chinese potted landscapes have been famous for centuries and often described as "soundless poetry", "stereoscopic painting", or "living sculpture". In a pot no larger than a wash basin, the ingenious craftsmen create a miniature reproduction of a natural scene using stunted trees and plants, rocks and sometimes water.
When potted landscapes were first grown it was very difficult to determine because they were only a folk art in the beginning. But a mural in the tomb of Crown Prince Li Xian of the early Tang Dynasty shows that they had already won royal favour by then.
Great Tang and Song poets like Wang Wei, Han Yu, Bai Juyi, Su Dongpo and Lu You all mentioned them.
Monographs describing the miniaturizing of trees and the art of miniature rockeries began to appear in the Song Dynasty and reached their peak in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Potted landscapes require painstaking efforts to create, taking dozens to hundreds of years. Craftsmen devote all their lives to their art works only to have later generations enjoy them to the fullest.
Chinese potted landscapes started as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty with a history of 1,900 years. They are of two major kinds: trees and rockeries.
Miniature trees are made from old stumps. Short, easily shaped stumps are forced into the form wanted by hanging, binding, trimming, deleafing and grafting. Some are made to look like running beasts, some like soaring birds, and some like beasts created from the imagination of the craftsmen.
Miniature rockeries are made by carving or corroding and then glueing either solid or absorbent rock, which is decorated with slender growing plants. Absorbent rock will accept mosses. some rockeries are imitations of paintings, but often they represent scenic spots.
Nowadays, in Chinese cities, big or small, there are potted landscape exhibitions within parks.