The Origin And History Of Bonsai

The Origin And History Of Bonsai

Bonsai is an ancient art of planting that originated from the Eastern World but is well adopted in the West. It’s quite puzzling and raises suspicion at first sight. At times it could be a passing interest that eventually fades with time, but in some instances, some individuals take their time to make more research about this beautiful piece of mini gardening method. This Article discuss about the origin and history of bonsai.

They are different from short trees and other plants that are grown in containers. They are full sized trees and are planted using basic bonsai methods, such as potting, pruning, wiring, root reduction, defoliation, etc. Generally speaking, bonsai are planted and left to grow in containers, pots, and trays.

Bonsai is more than just planting. It is a form of therapy and enhances fine qualities, such as patience and mental strength, and it also helps in relaxing the mind. For the early Chinese, a tree could be the connection between heaven and earth, and between the holy and the human. Thus, they had a popular belief that those who nurtured a miniature tree for long will be granted eternal life. To them, the trees are not nurtured for the production of medicine and food but mainly for landscaping and aesthetics.

The trees could be of different shapes and styles, either formal or informal, for example, cascade, slant, windswept, etc. The planting pots could be simple or unusually shaped trays made of wood, stone, plastic, or ceramic. There are special pots that are used for planting bonsai. These pots have small drainage holes in their base to allow excess water to drain out of the pot. Also, these holes have meshes to support the roots till the tree is matured enough and can carry its own weight, and to prevent soil from falling out.

According to ancient records, the Chinese were the first set of people to grow bonsai. But, the Japanese made significant efforts by developing and improving it, giving the art the modem touch we all see today. Bonsai are not genetically dwarfed plants as most people assume it to be, rather, their growth is inhibited by a number of methods and stages that, if done properly, would enable the tree to live as long as other wild trees of the same species. One interesting thing is that a vast variety of trees can be grown as bonsai.

The Origin And History Of Bonsai

The art of bonsai originated in the Chinese empire. However, the word “bon-sai” is coined from the Japanese language. As far back as AD 700, the Chinese had commenced the art of pousai, as it was called, using special methods to grow trees in containers. Back then, only the rich and influential of the society could afford to practice the art of pun-tsai, using locally-collected materials. The trees were so valuable that they could be given as valuable gifts in China.

The period known as the Kamakura period was the period in which Japan adopted most of China’s customs. The art of growing trees in containers was adopted as well by the Japanese. The Japanese did not just adopt the art but also developed bonsai due to two main reasons which were the influence of Zen Buddhism and the small size of Japan, which is about 4 percent the size of China’s mainland. Thus, the landscape was quite small and very limited. A number of popular styles, methods, and tools were invented in Japan from Chinese originals. For about three centuries, the art was known to be limited to the provinces of Asia. Only recently has bonsai truly been spread to other continents.

the history of bonsai
The history of bonsai

History of Bonsai in China

Various shallow basins or flattened bowls made out of earthenware, such as “pen” or “pan” or “pun,” had been made in what we now know as China since about five thousand years ago. A millennium later, during the Chinese bronze age, these shapes were selected among the shapes to be recreated in bronze for political and religious ceremonial purposes. There is a theory that was widely believed by the Chinese the five elements theory: fire, soil, water, wood, earth, and metal This theory, which was popular about 2,300 years ago, spread the idea about the potency of replicas in miniature. For example, by recreating a mountain, on a smaller scale, a student could focus on its magical potential and have access to them. The more the replica was in size from the original, the more its magical potent was likely to be.

About two hundred years later, under the Han emperor, importations of new aromatics and incenses were allowed due to newly opened trading with nearby nations. There was a new type of vessel made. The vessel took the form of two mountain peaks. These peaks were made above the waves and represent the dwelling of the immortals, the mythic islands of the blessed.

The vessel was used for burning sweet-smelling fragrance (incense). Initially crafted out of ceramic, bronze, or overlaid with bronze, some of these burners were braced on small pen dishes to either hold a miniature symbolic ocean or to collect hot embers. The detachable cover or lids to these burners were designed in style to represent some legendary figures climbing the sides of a forested mountain.

Through the holes in the lids, the incense smoke arose out of the cave openings having the appearance of the mystic vapors in the original-sized mountains. Some removable covers made out of stone may have been found with lichens around it. These covers depict small-scale natural landscapes.

Sometime in AD 706 came the tomb paintings for Crowned Prince Zhang Huai, which portrayed artistic rendition of two ladies-in-waiting, offering small-sized stony scenes with little plants in shallow trays. At that time, more advancement was made in the invention and care of bonsai tree while the development of the art was also taking place. By this time, there were already early written depictions of these pun-wan (tray playthings).

The earliest discovered and then containerized trees were assumed to have been specially-shaped and twisted trees from the wild. These were “holy” instead of “profane” because the trees could not be used for any food, medicine, or ordinary purposes, such as lumber. Their unusual forms were similar to yoga type body position which twisted back on itself in a repeated manner so that vital fluids keep flowing. This was believed to be responsible for long life.

For centuries, various regional styles would be developed all over the great country, China, with its many landscapes. Porcelain displayed on wooden stands would be replaced with earthenware and ceramic containers, and attempts would be made to reshape the trees using bamboo frameworks, brass wire, or lead strips.

Many writers and poets each described at least one tree and/or mountainous miniature landscapes, and many artists included a dwarfed potted tree as a sign of a cultivated man’s lifestyle. At the end of the sixteenth century, these were called pun-tsai or “tray planting.” Not until the seventeenth century did the word pun thing (“tray landscape,” now called penfing) actually come into usage.

History of Bonsai in Japan

It is widely accepted that the first tray landscapes were transported from China to Japan, at least 1,200 of them (as religious items). A millennium ago, the first extensive work of fiction in Japanese included this line, “A [big-sized] tree that is allowed to grow under its natural condition is a crude thing. It is only when it is grown dose to human beings who nurture it with loving care that its style and shape acquire the capacity to move one.”

The first graphical depictions of these in Japan were not made until about eight hundred years ago. All the things made by the Chinese amazed the Japanese, and it was only a matter of time before the Chinese Chan Buddhism (native Chinese Daoism combined with Indian meditative Dhyana Buddhism) was also imported, and it became known as Zen Buddhism in Japan. With limited landforms as a model, Zen monks were able to design their plate along specific lines, such that just one potted tree could portray our universe, and one could find beauty in something as small as a bonsai.

The Japanese pots were made a bit deeper than those from China, and the resulting gardening style was named bachi-no-ki, which literally meant “the bowl’s tree.” A story from the late 1300s, about a poor samurai who had to bum the last three surviving bonsai trees to provide warmth to a monk on voyage because it was winter and the night was so cold, was later adopted as a popular noh theatre play. Images from the story were later portrayed in a number of forms, including woodblock prints through the years.

Everybody, from the military leader to common artisans, grew different forms of the tree in a pot, tray, or abalone shell. By the late eighteenth century, an event to showcase traditional pine-dwarf potted trees commenced and were to be held annually in the capital city of Kyoto. Specialists from the neighboring areas and five provinces would bring one or two plants each for display in order to showcase them to the visitors for scoring or judging. As a major source of income, Takamatsu province (where Kinashi Bonsai Village could be found) was already into the business of making potted pines.

By 1800, a group of learned Chinese gathered around near the city of Osaka to discuss recent methods of growing dwarf trees. Their miniature trees were renamed as “bonsai” (which is a Japanese term that replaced the Chinese pronunciation, pun-tsar) as a way of separating them from the common hachi-no-ki, which most people nurtured. The pen or bon is not as deep as the bacbi bowl. This proves one point—that some cultivators were more successful with the horticultural needs of miniature trees in small-sized pots. By then, bonsai was viewed as a form of art. The craft’s technique was replacing the mythical and religious approach to customs.

A variety of styles and sizes were invented over a hundred years. Books and journals that gave details on the tools, pots, and the tree itself were printed. Various events were held as well. Hemp fibers were replaced with iron and copper wire for shaping the trees. Flower containers mass-produced in China and to be transported to Japan were made with strict specifications, and a number of people grew them as a form of hobby.

In 1923, a great earthquake, known as Kanto, affected a large part of Tokyo. After the earthquake, about thirty families who were skilled bonsai enthusiasts relocated to Omiya, which was about twenty miles away from Tokyo, and there, with time, Omiya village became the heart of Japanese bonsai traditions. Around the 1930s, official annual events were held at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. At that time, the Omiya bonsai art has gained much popularity.

The long recovery from the Pacific War made bonsai become developed and cultivated as an important native art. Training, more events for the display of potted trees, journals and articles, and classes for foreigners further popularized the art of bonsai. The use  of traditional power tools, along with a deep knowledge of plant physiology, enabled a few skilled trainers to move from the traditional method to a more artistic-designing phase of the art.

In recent times, bonsai is perceived more often as just a way of keeping the elderly busy. However, the art is gaining more popularity among the youth, with the availability of native, easy-to-care-for dwarf trees, which have beautiful scenes, without meshes, and look wild.

History of Bonsai in the Western World

In 1604, there was a depiction in Spanish of how Chinese settlers in the tropical islands of the Philippines were culturing small ficus trees onto hand-sized bits of coral. The first record of English observation of short trees planted in pots (a root surrounded by rocks in a pot) in Macau/China was in 1637. Thereafter, reports following the next century, likewise from Japan, were root-in-rock samples. Dozens of voyagers mentioned some of the potted trees in their reports from China or Japan.

A considerable number of these were restated in literature reviews and excerpts from articles that had worldwide distribution. In 1893, the Japanese potted trees were in the Philadelphia exhibition, also in Paris exhibition in 1878 and 1889 respectively. It was also on display during the Chicago Exposition of 1893, St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, 1910 Britain-Japan Exhibition, and also at the 1915 San Francisco Expo.

The first-known European dialect book (French) that focused completely on Japanese potted trees was printed in 1902, but the English version was not published until 1940. In 1957, Yoshimura and Halford’s Miniature Trees and Landscapes were published. It was later known as the “Bible of Bonsai in the West,” with Yuji Yoshimura being the link between Japanese traditional bonsai art and the developing Western approach, which resulted in a refined.

including substandard designs. The first bonsai website was launched in 1992. It began with the alt.bonsai newsgroup, then the following year, the first online bonsai dub was launched, rec arts.bobsai. And in less than three years, the first official bonsai dub website was set up. One movie that inspired many young ones to investigate the art was The Karate Kid.

At present, we have over 1,200 books written in about twenty-six dialects that focus on bonsai and closely related arts. Also, there are over fifty yearly print journals in various languages and five online articles simply in English. Dozens of websites, club newsletters, over a hundred discussion forums online and in blogs can be studied. With continuous references on TV, in movies and adverts, and in science fiction and non-fiction works, indeed, the interest is rising globally. There are also an estimated one thousand clubs meeting in various countries two-three time,thermostat, all with their own style

of politics, personalities, and passions. Membership might have risen dose to a hundred thousand in over a hundred countries and territories, with non-associated bonsai lovers totaling perhaps ten million more.
So the next time you prune a branch, wire it, or report your tree, think deeply about what you are doing. You are prolonging over a thousand-year legacy. Personally, you are creating a small version of your .


When molding a bonsai tree, the initial step is to choose which style is most appropriate to the tree’s natural structure. While there are intricate varieties of shapes and styles from which to pick, bonsai is normally grouped into five essential styles:

  • formal upright
  • informal upright
  • slanting
  • cascade
  • semi-cascade

These groupings depend on the general state of the tree and how much the storage compartment or trunk slants away from an imaginary vertical line. There are two extra styles (literati and windswept) that are usually considered as basic styles.

How Bonsai Styles Determines the Selection of Your Container

Just before you plant that tree in the pot, pause for a moment and think about how it will grow in the pot. Take a while to imagine placement before making a move. This helps prevent the common mistake that usually leads to a tree planted one way and then removed to make an adjustment.

Remember your general goal when planting bonsai. Upright trees ought to have a balanced look in the pot. Slanted and cascaded styles frequently have their upper root surfaces exposed to mimic the way plants grow naturally.

Regardless of what style you pick, whether a single-trunk tree or groups of trees from single roots, everything relies on your choice of plant material and your capacity to imagine the bonsai’s final shape.

Bonsai Style I:

The thokkann or the Formal Upstanding The formal upstanding style is the easiest for a beginner to develop because it has classic proportions and is the basis of all bonsai. This is because of the following reasons:

  • It requires minimal experimentation.
  •  It prevents the challenge of selective pruning.
  • It should almost immediately become a presentable bonsai.

In this method, the shape is in the form of a cone or circle while the tree is upright, and the branches are leveled. Basically, one of the branches is lower and broadens a little away from the trunk when compared to the others. In addition, the last two branches are primed to grow forward on the front side of the tree, one a bit higher

Tools and Carving Knives for Deadwood

The primary aim of working on deadwood is to ensure it appears natural and free from traces of human intervention. It seems fascinating that a wide variety of tools are available for this purpose. A slim, blunt chisel is ideal for lifting wood fibers. Various loop knives and carving hooks can be used for carving slight furrows and for peeling off bark, and it should follow the course of the fibers.

The branch splitters, on the other hand, are sharp pliers used for splitting dead stumps and branches. For breaking small wood (less fibrous wood) or for splitting fibers (on conifers with fibrous wood), thejin plier is a recommended tool. There are a number of variously shaped carving tools, often sold together, in different sizes and qualities, which are useful for smoothing, contouring, shaping, narrowing, or hollowing out the deadwood.

In a bid to wipe out every last trace of your work and remove wood fibers that are sticking out, it is advisable to apply a gas torch, which is fueled with methane gas, for instance. After burning, the charred wood layer can be brushed off with brass, steel, or nylon brushes.

For conserving decaying or decayed deadwood, wood hardener can be applied. They can be made from liquid plastics, mixed in acetone. The common Japanese jin fluid is made of lime sulfur, often used for whitening the deadwood and preserving it.

Other Bonsai Tools

Below are tools for wiring, bending, carving, and reporting bonsai:

  • Raffia
  • Gun oil
  • Camellia oil
  • Fusing rubber tape and gauze
  • Infusion hose
  • Brass brush
  • Steel brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Coco brush
  • Branch/Trunk-bending lever
  • Screw clamp
  • Rust eraser (dark grey) and grindstone
  • Disinfectant
  • Nylon brush
  • Bicycle tube

    Bonsai tools home depot;
    Bonsai tools home depot


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