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Million-dollar ancient trees

19 October 2009 | 03:03:00 AM

(VietNamNet Bridge) – Some Japanese bonsai experts who came to Vietnam for a seminar on ornamental trees were astonished when they learned that there were old trees selling for millions of US dollars in Vietnam.



Super ornamental trees





In mid-2008, the circles of ornamental tree collectors suffered a shock when two rich men in Viet Tri city, the northern province of Phu Tho named Nam Thanh and Toan announced that each of them owned an ornamental tree appraised at US$1.2 million.



Thanh is the owner of several gold shops in Viet Tri city. The story about his special tree “con ga mam xoi” (Chicken and steamed glutinous rice tray) is like a legend.



The tree initially belonged to a painter named Cuong, who sold it to another man named Quy at nearly 1 billion dong ($66,500). Quy sold it again to a man in Dong Da district, Hanoi in early 2008, who then sold it to Thanh at the price of 5.6 billion ($330,000).



Thanh displayed this tree at a “contest” for ornamental trees at the home of businessman Nguyen Van Phien in Vinh Yen town, Vinh Phuc province, where a Japanese man appraised its value at $1.2 million.



It is said that Thanh’s tree was sourced from the famous Huong Tich pagoda, Hanoi. It is an ornamental tree that was grown at the pagoda but nobody knows how it left the pagoda to find its way to ornamental tree collectors. This sanh tree is several hundred years old and its posture is “chicken and steamed glutinous rice tray”.



Another super tree is a pine tree named “Buddha”, owned by Phan Van Toan in Viet Tri city. It is worth over $1.2 million because it is over 500 years old. But for Toan, this tree is invaluable. “A man was willing to pay $1.2 million for my tree but I didn’t want to sell it. If I sold it, how could I find a second tree like it,” Toan said.



Toan, a billionaire, boasted that he owns the largest number of the most expensive ornamental trees in Vietnam. He currently has three large gardens full of ornamental trees and the smallest one is worth 50 million dong ($3000). Other trees are estimated at several dozens of million to hundreds of million dong. The two most outstanding trees are the pine tree named “Buddha” and a sanh tree of 200 years old.



Toan said a businessman offered 22 billion dong ($1.3 million) for the sanh tree but he refused because he doesn’t need money now. He said if he needed money, he could sell other trees of several hundred million dong. Toan bought this sanh tree from the ancient capital city of Hue at 3 billion dong several years ago. This tree belonged to a mandarin family in Hue.





He said last year he sold an ancient sanh tree for 1.1 billion dong ($69,000) while he bought it for only 5 million dong several years before when it was growing along the fence of a family in Hanoi.



Tree experts said that Toan’s gardens of ornamental trees are worth around 300 billion dong ($17.64 million). Toan has just sold an ancient tree to buy a BMW car worth 3.5 billion dong ($206,000) for his wife.



Toan said he has to hire an expert of ornamental trees from Phu Tho province to take care of his trees.



Among famous ornamental trees in Vietnam, the most valuable ones are in Trieu Khuc ancient village. The first is a sanh tree owned by Mr. Nguyen Gia Hien and a red-bud banian tree of Mr. Chau Thu. These trees are second to none at many contests for ornamental trees in Vietnam.



In an ornamental tree festival in HCM City in 2006, some businessmen offered $400,000 for each of the trees, but the owners refused, saying that a group of Chinese bonsai tree experts that paid a visit to their gardens in Hanoi appraised these trees at $5 million. They said if they needed money, they would sell all trees in their gardens, but they would never sell these super trees.



Notably, super trees in Vietnam are not very valuable in the eyes of Japanese bonsai experts while Japanese bonsais which cost millions of USD in Japan are not valuable to Vietnamese experts.



Why are they worth millions of USD?





According to experts, ornamental trees must meet the following criteria to be worth billions of dong: firstly, the trees must be grown in pots for over a hundred years. Secondly, they must be special species and have unique shape. Thirdly, they must express some message or topic through their postures. Fourthly, the trees must be suitable to the tastes of the buyers.



Such trees are very rare. An ornamental tree of several hundred years old is the “fruit” of several generations of gardeners. Therefore, that tree is not only a tree but a treasure of the gardener, so spiritually, it cannot be assessed a price. It is difficult to buy such a tree, even if one has several billion dong.





For example, an ornamental tree collector was willing to pay 3 billion dong (US$188,000) for a “sanh” tree of 300 years old of the Do family in the northern province of Nam Dinh but this family refused. They said 3 billion dong for a masterpiece of 300 years is too little.



A family in Ninh Hiep, Hanoi also refused to sell an ancient ornamental tree though a collector tried to persuade them a hundred times and he was ready to pay several billion dong because that tree was a spiritual asset of the whole family.



The postures and the species of ornamental trees show the tastes of the tree creators. According to experts, Hanoians are the most refined as far as taste for ornamental trees. Their trees are different from any place in the country and even the outside world.



The people who are interested in lifestyle, morals and dignity may like trees in the postures of “huynh de” (brothers), “phu tu” (father and son), “mau tu” (mother and baby). Those who like philosophy may choose trees with “bat phong” (against wind) posture, which shows men’s strong will. Some may like “quan thu” (gathering) posture because it shows the national unity and profound cultural value of Vietnam.  Those who like folk style often favour sanh, si, de or banian trees and the people who like royal style often choose pine, moon, cinnamon or elm trees.



Experts of ornamental trees can know the characteristics of gardeners or bonsai collectors by seeing their trees. Rich people who collect ornamental trees always pay attention to the spiritual aspect of trees. A man named Dinh Hong Quan paid several billion dong to buy two sanh trees to avoid bad luck. Another named Nguyen Trong Thanh said an ancient fig tree has brought luck to him. Thanh said the previous owners of this tree didn’t see just a fig fruit on the tree for over 100 years but only several years after Thanh bought it, the tree yielded fruit though it is grown in a small plot with little soil.



Thanh said since he had this tree, his business has developed strongly and his family is very happy. Thanh said he would never sell this tree at any cost, otherwise he might lose his luck.



He said once a man devotes his heart to a tree, the tree can understand his mind. Whenever he is happy, the tree looks fresh and beautiful and whenever he is said, the tree will be doleful. There are no scientific grounds for this but all experts of ornamental tree share the feeling with Thanh.



As they love their trees as their flesh and blood, whenever they prune just a branch or a leaf, they have to think very carefully then choose good times for that task.



The value of bonsai trees depends on the taste of collectors and the culture of each nation. The real value of ornamental trees in Vietnam is unclear but rich Vietnamese men are willing to pay billions of dong to buy trees to admire. It is likely that the poor shudder at their hobby!

(Source: VietNamNet/TGDO)
(VFEJ, 31/8/2009)

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