The Literati or Bunjin style of bonsai is like its namesake, an interpretation of an old, wise scholar who is frugal in lifestyle and having minimal materialism, yet rich in knowledge and ideas. Oftentimes, these ideas are hard to convey to lesser, ordinary people, yet they symbolize the many varied lessons of life; thus the trunk of the Literati often portrays this symbolism in a thin, rippling, and curvy trunk.
As a matter of fact, the literati in ancient China were an elite group of scholars who held positions of power and belonged to the ruling class. They were strongly influenced by Confucianism and contributed to the knowledge of science through study and literature.
The container that is to house the Literati style needs to look modest and assuming as well. A small, heavy, and relatively shallow container that is unglazed, is often the best choice because the eyes need to be focused on the tree alone, while you should be aware that the entire tree may not be balanced, once it permanently assumes the form of a Literati.
The most suitable species for the Literati style are species belong to the Coniferous order, which includes the pines. Japanese Red Pines are a popular species for this style, but of course there are many others like Black Pine, Juniper, Hinoki, and various cedars.
The main idea behind the Literati’s look is to present a different “version” of the tree when viewed from every angle. Wiring and pruning are very important for the Literati style; the trunk needs to be pruned back up to two thirds of the way up, while the branches also need a lot of wiring and pruning to achieve the frequently seen, sharp angled, hanging look.
The Literati style is not recommended for beginners due to its complexity. It is ironic that although it takes a lot of work, the result itself appears as the embodiment of beauty in all its simplicity.