The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum

Bonsai is a Japanese art form of miniature trees grown in containers.  Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated.  On this bike ride I went to see some of these living artworks  represented by the masterpieces at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which is part of the U.S. National Arboretum.  It is located on the grounds of the Arboretum at 3501 New York Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.

The Museum was established in 1976 when the country of Japan and the Nippon Bonsai Association donated 53 bonsai to the people of the United States to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial.  The collection has grown since that time with the addition of pieces from American bonsai masters and penjing from China.  Today, the museum houses approximately  150 plants, as well as developing specimens in a separate greenhouse, comprising one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in North America.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, in cooperation with The National Bonsai Foundation, is dedicated to the display, education and scholarly study of bonsai and related art forms.  The National Bonsai Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1982 organized around the mission of promoting bonsai in North America, particularly by supporting the development of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum.   It cooperates with the U. S. National Arboretum by offering financial support and advice to the Museum.  The private/public collaboration between the Foundation and the Arboretum enables the promotion of the art of bonsai and penjing to visitors through masterpiece displays of these timeless trees and educational programs.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum currently has four separate collections of miniature masterpieces, known as the Japanese, the Chinese, and North American collections.  A separate world class Viewing Stone collection is also housed and exhibited at the museum.  Bonsai and viewing stones are closely related in their great respect for nature, and when the small scale plants and stones are combined, the whole of nature can be imagined via these miniature landscapes.

There is so much worth seeing at The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, as well as throughout the rest of the National Arboretum, that visitors should plan to spend at least a day, or to plan for more than one visit.  It’s worth it.

Bonsai07     Bonsai13     Bonsai27

Bonsai37     Bonsai33     Bonsai31

Bonsai08     Bonsai16     Bonsai38

Bonsai35       Bonsai04       Bonsai36       Bonsai21

Bonsai15       Bonsai29       Bonsai06       Bonsai18

Bonsai23       Bonsai30       Bonsai25       Bonsai32

  1. I’ve been here and my first reaction is that it is quite a distance to travel by bike. Anyway, interesting post. Thanks.


    • The D.C. area isn’t as large as it sometimes seems, and almost all of it is easily accessible by bike. The Bonsai Museum at the National Arboretum is only 3.1 miles from the U.S. Capitol Building, which is much closer than The Awakening at National Harbor that I wrote about last week. And even that is only 16 miles.


      • OK, thanks. It seemed much longer when I drove it, but the roads didn’t look that bike friendly. I think I’d prefer biking the 16 miles on the Mount Vernon Trail (which I’ve done) than the 3.1 from the US Capitol to the Arboretum. But I drove via US 50; perhaps another route would be advisable on a bike.


      • Route 50/New York Avenue was not very bike friendly the last time I road that route. On a bike I prefer Maryland Avenue through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, to Bladensburg Road. You can then go in through the side entrance to the Arboretum which is on Bladensburg Road.


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