What Does Bonsai Mean?

What does the word “Bonsai” mean? That’s a question that many beginners to the discipline of Bonsai might wonder. In the Oxford dictionary, “Bonsai” is defined as a “shrub or tree meant to be an ornament that is grown in a pot and synthetically prevented from being a normal-sized plant. It is a discipline that has been around for thousands of years. In order to fully understand the full nature of the Bonsai, here is some extra information you need to know: 

Bonsai History 

Although the word “Bonsai” and the concept has been taken over by Japan, this concept was originally called “Pun-Sai” and it was a Chinese creation. They perfected the art of growing miniature trees in a container by 700 A.D. and they kept the concept to themselves for at least 400 years. However, when this discipline was introduced into Japan during the Kamakura Shogunate period from 1185-1333, they perfected the practice and renamed it “Bonsai”. It has been a well-established Japanese traditional ever since. 

Bonsai and Spirituality

Of course, a lot of people relate the Bonsai tree to the practice of Zen Buddhism. While this is a worthy idea, the Bonsai can go much deeper than that. For some, this means that the Bonsai helps them become more in tune with the natural world. For others, Bonsai is a reminder that everything is elemental. The trees adapt, survive, and even thrive even within their limited surroundings. They are very resilient indeed. 

Bonsai and Budo 

Naturally, Budo is a martial arts practice. It requires a lot of training in order to do it right and to be able to practice the moves well. Although it may seem surprising to some, many Budo artists find inspiration in the Bonsai plant. This is because much like their training, the Bonsai is being trained as well. As they gaze at the Bonsai, they are made aware that their persistence in training will get them where they need to be as well. 

Bonsai Trees in China 

The earliest known reference to Bonsai trees in China occurs in the tomb of Crown Prince Zhang Huai in 706 A.D. There was a painting of two ladies-in-waiting who were each holding a Bonsai Tree. They were holding small paints in some very small dishes, and these would later become known as the Bonsai trees that we all know and love. Moreover, another Chinese reference to the Bonsai tree was in many Chinese works of literature. Moreover, many artists attempted to include at least one Bonsai tree in their masterpieces simply because this was a symbol of a man of affluence and culture. 

Bonsai Trees in Japan 

Even though the Bonsai tree didn’t become widespread in Japan until medieval times, they were first introduced to Japan some 1200 years ago as a religious or tourist artifact. They were first portrayed in Japanese art about eight hundred years ago, and archaeologists and historians alike both love everything that has to do with the Bonsai tree in Japan simply because it is a window into their culture. For it was during this time period that the Japanese were fascinated with everything regarding China. 

So you see, the Bonsai tree is more than just a plant. It incorporates so many different themes that it is definitely an amazing discipline to be involved in. The “meaning” of Bonsai is truly very vast indeed.

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