The coming Year of the Rat brings with it an extra touch of significance for it marks the beginning of a new 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac year.
If you are in search of something special to usher in the auspicious occasion in a new and right spirit, you may consider bringing home one or two pots of Penjing (potted scenery) or Pensai (potted tree), which is more commonly known as bonsai here.
First, head down to the Dhati Hypermarket in Pearl Point Mall on Old Klang Road. You will see hundreds of age-old dwarfed trees that come in various heights, shapes and sizes all over at the entrance of the supermarket.
The sea of dark green leaves on dull dark brown trunks may not be as colourful and vibrant as the more conventional Lunar New Year Plants of cherry blossoms, plums, twisted bamboos and the like, but venture on. After all, a new spirit is what you want.
An art that has survived over a thousand years cannot fail you, can it? With a little creative juice, what you are going to get from using a pot or two of Penjing a potted composition of dwarfed tree, rocks, wood, or other figurines to adorn your home or office, indoor or outdoor, can be quite amazing.
The red and gold of an ang pow packet, a miniature lantern, or an item of any other decorative paraphernalia found in the market would certainly shine with extra vibrancy when it is hung against the dark and delicate leaves of a dwarfed tree.
With a right dose of colour added to the crown of the potted tree, the rugged, gnarled trunks and exposed roots will suddenly come to life, exuding an air of strength and steadiness.
In short, dress-up the potted tree properly for the New Year and you may well feel the effect of flowing chi or energy. It is no wonder then that bonsai enthusiasts value their potted plants as feng shui items.
Feng Shui and Pensai have always been a perfect match as both represent harmony, peace and prosperity, said Mr Hu Xian Yuan, 54, the Chinese trader behind the grand Pensai sale held at Dhati Hypermarket.
In Japan, bonsai is a must-have for the New Year. People in China also like to have Penjing or Pensai for the Lunar New Year as its a new beginning and age-old dwarfed potted plants are something that provides new chi, a Chinese character that carries many connotations spirit, energy, unseen life force or merely atmosphere, he added.
For those who like to have a change in feng shui, or a change in luck, Hu said that he has large collections of Yee Shu (Elm trees), which come in big and little leaves. Both species, depending on individual taste, are ideal for home, office or even as gifts.
According to Hu, who has a small nursery of potted plants in his hometown in Jianxi, his current collections of Pensai range from ten years to over 100 years old. Most of them are from nurseries, big and small, in the Guangdong Province and they are plants that were passed down from generation to generation.
Hu added the dwarfed potted plants are hardy and it is not difficult to take care. Unless one aspires to be a bonsai practitioner, collector, connoisseur, or even an artist, all it needs is watering and occasional pruning.
Some species on offer at the sale include apricot, elm, banyan, jasmine, box, Fukian Tea, maple and juniper. Some of it comes with interesting names such as Guai Gen to Khung Lung Tang, which mean Odd Roots and Dinosaurs Eggs respectively. The latter, said Hu, is one of the few rare species on offer.
You can also find auspicious names such as Jin Qian Shu (money tree), Fatt Cai Shu (prosperity tree), and Qing Zhi Ye Yeh (golden branches and jade leaves).
According to Hu all the potted trees will be sold at discounted prices as the sale only lasts till the end of January.
More significantly, Penjing brings all of the five elements together and it provides a harmonious effect whether it is for home, office or as a gift, said Hu. The tree is for the wood element and the sunlight it absorbs is for fire. Then you have the soil, which represents the earth element. The shears for pruning is for metal and, lastly, you need water for the growth of the tree.