The Ancient History and Symbolic Meaning of the Bonsai Tree

Bonsai Tree

Picture: Inventory Pictures from Thanun Patiparnthada/Shutterstock

Bonsai trees have a solid association with Japan. But did you know that the art of rising miniature trees essentially originated in historic China? By 700 CE, the Chinese have been working with specific tactics to improve dwarf trees in containers. The apply grew to become recognised as “pun-sai” (or “penzai”) and was originally only cultivated by the elite in culture. It wasn’t till the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333) that growing miniature trees within pots ended up released into Japan. And currently, even Western character enthusiasts grow and care for bonsai trees as residing is effective of artwork.

Examine on to learn the history and meaning of these distinctive trees.

Bonsai Tree

A Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) bonsai, Chinese Assortment 111, on show at the Nationwide Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States Countrywide Arboretum. (Photo: WikimediaCommons (CC BY-SA 3.))

What is the that means of the term bonsai?

Bonsai is a Japanese word that means “tree in a pot.” On the other hand, the term originally arrives from the Chinese phrase “pun-sai” or “penjing.” In Chinese, “pen” usually means pot and “jing” means surroundings or landscape.

Bonsai trees are intended to be a miniature illustration of character, planted in decorative containers.


What does the bonsai tree symbolize?

When bonsai trees had been initially introduced in China a lot more than 1,300 a long time back, they have been noticed as a position image amongst the elite of culture. Currently, however, bonsai trees are savored by folks all about the planet.

Dependent on a person’s tradition or beliefs, bonsai trees are observed as symbols of harmony, stability, patience, or even luck. Several individuals merely use the potted trees as living ornaments for inside layout, even though others—Zen Buddhists for example—believe the bonsai is an item of meditation or contemplation.


The Heritage of Bonsai in China

Bonsai Tree

Penzai mural in the Tang Dynasty tomb of Prince Zhanghuai, 706 A.D. (Photograph: WikimediaCommons General public Domain)

In historical China, early explorers have been probably the 1st to discover miniature trees that grew large in the mountains. This local weather noticed severe problems wherever progress was complicated, so the prized dwarf trees had been particularly gnarled in physical appearance. As early as the 4th-century BCE, the Taoists thought that recreating areas of character in miniature allowed people today to obtain accessibility to their magical houses. As a result, penjing was born. This included building miniature landscapes displayed atop earthenware.

In a bid to recreate the pure trees they discovered in the mountains, the Chinese created pruning and binding strategies that gave plants twisted designs and an aged look. Some historians feel the Taoists formed the miniature trees’ branches and trunks to resemble animals of Chinese folklore, this sort of as dragons and serpents. Other people believe that the plants’ warped formations get right after yoga positions.

The 1st pictorial evidence of the artistically formed trees in miniature appeared in 706 CE in the tomb of Prince Zhang Huai. On getting into, archeologists found out murals depicting feminine servants carrying penjing, which contained miniature trees and rocks.


The Background of Bonsai in Japan

Bonsai Tree

Japanese woodblock print by Keisai Eisen, 1848 (Picture: WikimediaCommons (CC0 1.))

Less than the rule of the Cling Dynasty, Chinese monks migrated to Japan and other components of Asia—taking with them examples of penzai. Japanese Zen Buddhist monks learned the techniques essential for making the miniature trees, which later on grew to become recognized as bonsai. The Japanese made their personal strategies for generating dwarfed trees, resulting in unique kinds as opposed to China’s penzai.

Japanese bonsai trees commonly stood all-around a single to two feet higher and necessary a lot of yrs of pro treatment. The branches, trunks, and roots received their twisted look by holding the sought after shape—using bamboo and wire—as the tree grew. And in get to realize a unique shape, artists frequently grafted new branches on to current kinds. Some species even bore fruit, even though other folks bloomed leaves and bouquets. By the 14th century, bonsai trees were being regarded as a really highly regarded art type. The prized vegetation quickly manufactured their way from the monasteries to the households of the royal. Just like in China, the trees turned symbols of standing and honor.

At the commencing of the 1600s, the Japanese bonsai developed once more. The competent artists started employing special pruning techniques to clear away all but vital sections of the vegetation. This established a minimalist seem, which displays the Japanese philosophy and belief that “less is far more.” Through medieval instances (1185 to 1603), bonsai trees turned offered to folks of all social courses. Improved demand meant that more people today experienced to discover the artwork of bonsai, and soon, miniature trees were commonplace in virtually each Japanese residence.

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