In this section we discuss the Origins of Bonsai; in doing so we explore its Asian roots and the real meaning of growing Bonsai trees. Also, we take a look at several related arts (including Shohin, Pottery and Ikebana) and at the famous Bonsai gardens in Japan. We hope you will get inspired by this fascinating art!
Bonsai trees are mystical objects, subject of the imagination. To provide some insight in where it comes from and what it's about we created an infographic, with all the basic information you need to get started.
Over the years many styles to classify Bonsai trees have been advanced, closely resembling circumstances in nature. These styles are open to personal interpretation and creativity, meaning that trees do not necessarily need to conform to any form. Still, the styles are important to gain a basic understanding of shapes and should serve as guidelines to successfully train miniature trees.
Although the word ‘Bon-sai’ is Japanese, the art it describes originated in the Chinese empire. By the year 700 AD the Chinese had started the art of ‘pun-sai’ using special techniques to grow dwarf trees in containers. Originally only the elite of the society practiced pun-tsai with native-collected specimens and the trees where spread throughout China as luxurious gifts. During the Kamakura period, the period in which Japan adopted most of China’s cultural trademarks, the art of growing trees in containers was introduced into Japan. The Japanese developed Bonsai along certain lines due to the influence of Zen Buddhism and the fact that Japan is only 4% the size of mainland China. The range of landscape forms was thus much more limited. Many well-known techniques, styles and tools were developed in Japan from Chinese originals. Although known to a limited extent outside Asia for three centuries, only recently has Bonsai truly been spread outside its homelands.
The word “Bon-sai” (often misspelled as bonzai or banzai) is a Japanese term which, literally translated, means “planted in a container”. This art form is derived from an ancient Chinese horticultural practice, part of which was then redeveloped under the influence of Japanese Zen Buddhism. It has been around for well over a thousand years. The ultimate goal of growing a Bonsai is to create a miniaturized but realistic representation of nature in the form of a tree. Bonsai are not genetically dwarfed plants, in fact, any tree species can be used to grow one.