Who we are

This web site was developed in response to the growing interest in Asian stone appreciation among English speaking audiences.

Our Team

Our Purpose

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A Team of Specialists

VSANA assembled a team of specialists and advisors to assist in providing accurate information about Chinese and other Asian stones, classical and modern, and how the Chinese and Japanese have long valued and appreciated them for over 1,000 years. This is a formidable undertaking and an important one since there is much misinformation about Chinese and Japanese stone appreciation in western countries. To accomplish this, our advisors will help us from misinterpreting or misunderstanding concepts and principles. Our wonderful interpreters have varying degrees of experience with Chinese stone appreciation and provide critically important assistance in translations and in key interviews with leaders and specialists in the Asian stone appreciation community. Leaders, collectors, and dealers in the various countries have welcomed our interest and graciously supply us with information about local and regional stones.


The content for this site is generated by Dr. Thomas S. Elias
and Dr. Hiromi Nakaoji.

Elias is a botanist and long time student of Asian arts and culture, especially stone appreciation, penjing and bonsai, and classical gardens. He organized the Chinese Stone Appreciation Study Group that meets regularly in southern California and he also serves as Chairman of the Viewing Stone Association of North America. He also serves as president of Bonsai Clubs International, the largest international organization devoted to bonsai and stone appreciation. Elias first visited China in the spring 1978 as a guest of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to tour and evaluate several botanical gardens and botanical research facilities. He has visited China and Japan over 30 times to study and to lecture at established institutions. Elias has published over 30 articles on aspects of stone appreciation and Asian horticulture in addition to this website. He and his wife Hiromi, authored Chrysanthemum Stones, The Story of Stone Flowers published by Floating Worlds Editions in 2010. In February, 2015 he co-authored with Kemin Hu the large format Spirit Stones, The Ancient Art of the Scholar’s Rock published by Abbeville Press. Then, in September, 2014 his book Viewing Stones of North America was published by Floating Worlds Editions. He serves as Honorary Vice Chair of the View Stone Association of China, Vice President of the Guangdong Viewing Stone Association, and the Honorary Chairman of the Macau Stone Arts Association. He also has travelled and worked extensively in Asiatic Russia and Japan. Elias was presented with an honorary doctorate degree from the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2005 and, in 2010, the Japanese government awarded him with their highest honor for a non- Japanese. He was inducted into the Order of the Rising Sun with Gold Leaves and Rosette. Elias has authored or edited seven books and over 135 papers.

Nakaoji is a native of Kyoto, Japan but she came to the United State to pursue graduate studies. She has been a professional English/Japanese interpreter and translator for over twenty years and has worked for several of the major energy and health care companies in Japan and for the U.S. Department of States and Justice Department. Nakaoji has been involved in the study of bonsai, penjing and stone appreciation in Japan and China for over ten years. She is a frequent traveler to China and Japan and she is the co-author of several articles on bonsai and stone appreciation and the book Chrysanthemum Stones, The Story of Stone Flowers. Nakaoji and Elias have assembled a large collection of Chinese and other Asian viewing stones, and one of the largest collections of books and publications in North America on Asian stone appreciation.

Watch a video by Jason Chan at Eastern Leaf where he visits Tom Elias at home to view a small portion of Tom's and Hiromi's stone collection.


The appreciation of stones in Asia is one of several ancient art forms pursued by artists, poets, and other literati as they sought to lead a life of quiet contemplation, self-education, and harmony with nature. The appreciation of stones as symbols and also as natural art objects began well over 1,000 years ago, and has continued uninterrupted. Today, an estimated four to five million people collect stones in modern China and this passion has spread to countries throughout the world. Thousands more in Japan and throughout Southeast Asia also actively pursue stone appreciation activities.

VSANA serves as a center for people to study, learn, and promote Asian stone appreciation. We began this web site by focusing on China where the practice originated, but beginning in 2015, we will be expanding the web site to include other countries. We are devoted to understanding Asian precepts and principles relating to all aspects of appreciating natural stones as artistic objects. VSANA will attempt to disseminate this information to English speaking audiences worldwide utilizing meetings, exhibits, lectures, and various electronic media including this web site.

An advisory board of experts and leaders is assisting VSANA in maintaining accurate, up-to-date information about Asian stone appreciation and to promote traditional and modern views about these stones. Featured articles, book reviews, historical information, news about current events and exhibitions in Asia and other information will be published on our web site, and typically updated every month.


Today, an estimated four to five million people collect stones in modern China and this passion has spread to countries throughout the world.

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