Tiny Worlds



A hectic life in Boston as an acupuncturist and practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine left Dan Dan with no time for creativity or relaxation. She sought peace by embracing the teachings of Buddha, letting go of the energy stagnation that comes from unhappiness and setting off for a new life in Francestown, New Hampshire. Now, using the principles of penzai, a Chinese relative to bonsai, Dan Dan creates small living worlds with mosses, plants and trees. Stones and found items act as centerpieces in her landscapes by telling her what they would like to become.


Photo by Kendal J. Bush

In Her Own Words

  • I like bonsai — like a tree — but this takes a long time to do. Then, one day, I saw a glass jar and inside it was moss and I thought, “Oh, this is a good idea.”
  • I started getting some moss and put it on some plates. It looked so nice. I just picked up a stone and the stone looked like a mountain.
  • I was born in South Korea. My parents are Chinese. I lived in South Korea and went to Taiwan for university where I studied art. I grew up helping my dad with his business of acupuncture and herbal medicine.
  • Before, my life was always busy. I didn’t have time or room to do this, and my mind had no time to do this. Now I can enjoy life — I feel so lucky.
  • I come here, and now my life is very simple. Simple is better. My clothes are all secondhand — I’m still happy.
  • I think everyone needs time to play, time to do what you like ­— it can make you more healthy, make you relax, make the body’s energy come racing up and stress just disappears.
  • I wake up excited to come into the greenhouse. It is the balance in my life. In here, it gives me good energy.
  •  I find things and I feel a connection. I have something here and maybe one day I can use a part of it.  
  • For me, it’s a spiritual charge — I keep it and it can grow very beautiful.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to go back in the house. When I come to the greenhouse, I just can not go.
  • When I do bonsai, I can spend all day long here. I forget about eating.
  • I don’t sketch or draw ideas out. For bonsai, I just need to look at the material.
  • People say you need to sell this. I feel like, how could I sell this? I don’t want to sell them ­— they’re like children.
  • I imagine myself walking over the bridges and in the landscapes and I stay here.
  • Now I can enjoy this. I like to make a small world inside.

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