What is a Bonsai?

What is a Bonsai?


I’ve been asked so many times and so many ways the burning question- what is a Bonsai?
Let me share a secret with you, there is no such a plant called bonsai. Bonsai is an art, a continuously growing and changing art. The meaning of the word bonsai come from ‘bon-tree’ and ‘sai-pot’, it means, then any tree or scrub in a ceramic pot could be turned into a bonsai with care, time and attention to details.

Bon (tree)                     Sai (pot)

The history of Bonsai.

Since its beginning in China during the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago, the art of growing miniaturized trees in containers has undergone a highly checkered history.
The legend says that once an ancient Chinese Emperor commissioned the construction of a miniature landscape to represent all the parts of his empire in his courtyard, so he could stand on his balcony and survey his entire domain. The landscape consisted of mountains, lakes and of course with miniature trees. During those days if anyone had the nerve to own even the modest miniature landscape in a dish was deemed to represent a threat to his authority and was immediately called as a traitor and put to death.

The art of bonsai has been introduced to Japan when China invaded it in the 14th century. Even today the Japanese characters for Bonsai remain the same as the Chinese. This time the enthusiasts were more interested the bonsai roses and colourful flowers than the shape or the realism of the tree.
The development of the bonsai as we know today began during the last century in Japan due to the influence of the Zen Buddhism combined with the increasing artistic awareness what led to the evolution of bonsai to the art form that is in Japan nowadays.

The big journey to the West.

Although westerners had contact with bonsai on their travel to the  Far East and written about the miniature trees in their journals. The hobby began to catch the west after the second Ward War when GIs returned from Japan brought with them a small example of bonsai.
Unfortunately, many of these trees only survived for a short time, but luckily there were enough people who were curious enough to discover and learn how to look after them properly.
The main source of knowledge in the United States comes from the large Japanese -American population, and for many years their knowledge and skills where in demand throughout the Western Countries.

Nowdays bonsai become a very popular in Western countries.  Small plant cuttings planted in pots sold as bonsai in supermarkets, garden centres and markets. Although these are far from the true Bonsai what is produced by artists in Japan. But these trees are good for a start and at least introduce newcomers to the fascinating hobby of growing miniaturized trees.

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