What we know of today, as bonsai, were thought to have first originated in China more than 1000 years ago.
Although there has been evidence of what resembled small trees being grown in pots, found in tombs in Egypt over 400o years old, the evolution of bonsai as art began in China and was then brought to mainstream western world through Japan.
It is believed that it was most likely the Buddhist Monks that were responsible for bringing bonsai to Japan.
Here they were refined as an art form for which the Japanese are now famous.
Japanese style bonsai are what is recognized by most people today when they think of bonsai, as a decorative art form highly regarded as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.
It’s not fully known as to how or why, bonsai first came about, but it seems to be
possibly a mixture of both a need for botanical reasons, and a enjoyment of it’s aesthetic properties.
It has been said that the ancient Hindus studied the science of dwarfing trees to have greater control of the quality of their main elements, (roots, flower, leaves, bark and fruit) when using them for medicinal purposes, it would also be assumed that dwarfing huge jungle trees would assist in the transport and accessibility to these ingredients.
For the Chinese understanding how to manipulate the growth cycles of certain trees to flower or fruit at a certain time of year, and coincide with important ceremonies and other Chinese customs was of the utmost importance.
All of these reasons seem to eventually evolve into what we have today, ornamental trees that can be easily transported, can be trained to grow and produce fruits or flowers in a variety of styles, that can still be used for functional horticultural or medicinal purposes.
What is Bonsai?
The word bonsai, (pronounced bone-sigh) or “Pun Sai” in Chinese, is made up of two words, “bon” meaning tray or dish and “sai” meaning tree or plant.
As these two words go together to make one word, so does a tree and a pot.
Individually no matter what types of tree or pot they are, they are still only a tree and a pot!
It is the proper combination of the two elements that create a true “bonsai”.
The Art of Bonsai
Being able to create true bonsai and not just merely a tree in a pot, takes some skill and understanding of the guidelines that have been established throughout this evolution process of bonsai becoming an art.
Getting an understanding of the 5 basic styles of bonsai, and then seeing how these 5 basic styles make up the basis for many other more advanced styles, learning the elements that make up a complete bonsai, such as symmetry, balance and proportion, will help the grower to create a unique, yet traditional style bonsai that can be admired for many years and take pride of place in the home or garden area.
Growing bonsai isn’t as difficult as most people think, and plants you may already have in the home or in your garden, can be easily transformed into beautiful Japanese style bonsai by following the guidelines I have set out in my E-book How to Bonsai
Check it out, or wait till my next post when I cover some of the elements above that make up a true bonsai.