The Museum is well known for its display of masterpiece living specimens of bonsai and penjing. Less well known is the Museum’s world-class collection of viewing stones.

Bonsai and viewing stones are closely related art forms, each reflecting a deep respect for nature. While a bonsai is cultivated to evoke the qualities of a venerable old tree, a viewing stone is usually displayed to suggest an aspect of the natural landscape, such as a distant mountain or a waterfall. Thus, when these small-scale forms are viewed together in a complementary arrangement, the whole of nature can be imagined.

The collection began with six Japanese viewing stones that accompanied the gift of bonsai from Japan on the occasion of the American Bicentennial in 1976. Today there are 105 stones from different countries: Japan, China, Indonesia, South Africa, Zaire, Namibia, Italy, Canada, and the United States. The viewing stone collection has expanded to include stones outside the formal requirements of Japanese viewing stones—such as Chinese scholars’ rocks and abstract natural stones.

The stones are displayed in and around the Museum’s Mary Mrose International Pavilion. Cases in The Melba Tucker Suiseki and Viewing Stone Display Area are periodically installed with different stones. The displays in the Japanese tokonoma (an alcove for art display in a Japanese home) and the Chinese scholar’s room provide a cultural context for the appreciation of different types of stones and related arts. The Special Exhibitions Wing provides a place for thematic exhibits which incorporate accessories in a more formal display.

Chrysanthemum Stone - Moon Night
From Neodani, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
42 x 58 x 20 cm
Gift from Nippon Suiseki Association to
President Gerald Ford
Donated by Tanekichi Isozaki, 1975
Photo: Joe Mullan
Dry Waterfall Stone

From New York State, USA
10 x 15 x 10 cm
Donated by Martin Schmalenberg, 199
Photo: Joe Mullan

Chinese Scholar’s Rock - Taihu stone

From Lake Tai, Jiangsu Province, China
83 x 38 x 30 cm
Donated by Kemin Hu, 2000
Photo: Joe Mullan

Chinese Scholar’s Rock - Lingbi stone

From Lingbi, Anhui Province, China
73 x 34 x 20 cm
Donated by Kemin Hu, 2000
Photo: Joe Mullan

Hut Stone

From California Desert, USA
3 x 16 x 5 cm
Donated by Cheryl Manning, 1996
Photo: Joe Mullan

Near Mountain Stone

From Delaware County, Pennsylvania, USA
9 x 25 x 13 cm
Donated by Jim Hayes, 1996
Photo: Joe Mullan

Pattern Stone – Geisha

From Mojave Desert, California, USA
22 x 20 x 15 cm
Donated by Mariana Haug, in memory of her mother, Melba Tucker, 1997
Photo: Joe Mullan

Chrysanthemum Stone

From Neodani, Gifu Prefecture, Japan
30 x 27 x 22 cm
Bicentennial Gift from Nippon Bonsai Association
Donated by Kiyoshi Yanagisawa, 1975
Photo: Joe Mullan

Dwelling Stone

From Ciniru River Valley, Kunigan, West Java, Indonesia
13 x 20 x 15 cm
Gift from Indonesian Suiseki Association
Donated by Ismail Saleh, 1994
Photo: Joe Mullan

Mountain Stone

From Eel River, California, U.S.A.
14 x 43 x 22 cm
Donated by Harry Hirao, 1995
Photo: Joe Mullan


© 2006, National Bonsai Foundation
Supporting the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum -