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© Mo

Boh Chit Hee (1935-2009)

In Boh Chit Hee’s 74 years of life, he first composed a journey of music, then paved a road to bonsai artistry.

The 1950s to 1970s were Boh Chit Hee’s golden years - from his high school days to becoming a young adult. Inspired by the times and at the height of his vigour, he stepped into the wonderful world of music. He was a versatile musician with an array of musical talents such as playing the Guqin, conducting orchestras, and composing songs.

Conducting 1963

Conducting an orchestra in aid of the Nanyang University • 1963

Music autobiography

Boh Chit Hee music autobiography

Bits and pieces of his musical journey were recorded in the book Rubber Plantation, Our Mother《胶林,我们的母亲》, which was authored by his wife Tu Ching in 2009.

11 years later in the present day, his second son Mo Zhuang Ze organised, edited and published the book Wrightia Religiosa. The book detailed the other part of his father’s life - his devotion to the art of bonsai, and how he became a pioneer of the bonsai scene in Singapore. This was another pillar of artistic endeavour for Boh Chit Hee, among the exceptional literary and artistic accomplishments which he had accumulated over the years.


Through his constant emphasis on applying art to the natural world, Boh Chit Hee had created an unique and idiosyncratic style of bonsai and potted landscape. Not only did he take special care of the potted plants during the process of nurturing, cultivating, planting and shaping them; he applied his literary knowledge and understanding to seek for the appropriate prose or poem for the potted plants - transcending the bonsai. With the help of time and patience, the end results are independent sceneries of the natural world.


In the latter part of his life, Boh Chit Hee devoted himself wholeheartedly to the art of bonsai, and spent lesser time on music. However, as he was taking care of the plants and creating works of art, how could the melodies of yonder years leave his heart? Apart from putting all his energy into the art of bonsai, he continued to play the Guqin religiously.


In the article Father, you have nothing to regret!, Mo Zhuang Ze wrote: “As long as my father studies and practices hard, nothing is impossible!”


Through his thoroughgoing attitude on the journey of music and bonsai, Boh Chit Hee had a lifetime of achievements. Albeit a man of few words, the art of music and bonsai will forever be Boh Chit Hee’s refuge.

* Author Mo Zhuang Ze spent roughly 10 years retouching the few thousand slides and negatives his father left behind, and another 10 months working closely with a graphic designer friend to lay the book out. Through the 500+ photos that cover almost 60 years of documentary, Mo hopes to revive public appreciation with bonsai and the Southern Chinese style of cultivation, to restore his father’s reputation as a visionary artist, and to resurrect his bonsai creations that have since been lost. 

In this book, Mo preserves his father's artistic legacy by combining the three themes of bonsai, photography and music: potted plants as the focal point, photography as the medium, and classical music as inspiration for the flow. Through images and articles, readers will have a unique sense of appreciation for this father-son duo's dedication and perseverance towards art.


In his own chapter, Mo also presented the bonsai which he had cultivated and preserved over the years during his spare time. Apart from traces of his father's style, Mo instills his idiosyncratic creativity in his pursuit of the art of bonsai. Readers are encouraged to take their time in savouring the content.

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