For a long time, the art of bonsai has been associated with Japan. However, the art was originally from China. It then spread gradually to the East, towards Korea and Japan. It is believed that the bonsai art was spread by monks from the Buddhism religion. They were trying to bring the ‘outside environment’ inside the temples. Ancient manuscripts and paintings prove
that container trees were already being cultivated in China by 600 AD. However, many scholars argue that the art might date as early as 500 BC.
History Of Bonsai Trees In China
It does not come as a surprise that artistic plant cultivation came from China. Flowers and plants have always been a vital part of the country’s aesthetic heritage. They are naturally endowed with many types of plants and flowers. Also, if you look back at the Chinese history, you will realise that they also had a passion for gardens. Their gardens had were on a miniature scale, with many small trees and shrubs. These plants were planted to balance the landscape.
Bonsai literally means ‘a tree in a tray’. One thing that played an important role in the development of the bonsai art of today is the development of Chinese ceramics. Beautiful Chinese containers are the reason why bonsai trees’ admiration grew. The tree and the container are made to form a single object.
History Of Bonsai Trees In Japan
The first tray landscape were imported to Japan from China as religious souvenirs. This happened more than one thousand years ago. Graphic portrayals of bonsai trees in Japan date back to about seven hundred years ago. The Japanese imported most Chinese cultures that fascinated them, including the Zen Buddhism.
The pots that the Japanese used to grow bonsai trees were relatively deeper than what the Chinese used. The resulting gardening form was later named hachi-no-ki. This literally translated to ‘the bowl’s tree’.
There are many folk tales that prove the existence of the bonsai trees in Japan years ago. Among them is one that talks about an impoverished samurai who had to sacrifice the last three dwarf potted trees that he owned so as to provide warmth for a mink who was traveling on a cold night during winter.
Bonsai Trees In The West
Among the earliest known English observations of miniature potted trees in China dates back to the 1600s. Over the next century, many travelers to china and Japan mentioned the existence of potted trees in their accounts. Book reviews and magazines wrote about it over and over.
Japanese miniature potted trees were presented in different occasions such as:
- Philadelphia Exposition, 1876
- Chicago Expo,1893
- Paris Exposition, 1878
- St Louis World Fair,1904
- Japan-British Exhibition
- San Francisco Exposition,1915
In 1902, the first book written in a European language discussing in length about dwarf trees was published. The book was published in French. In 1940, an English book about bonsai trees was published.
Evolution Of Bonsai Trees
Slight improvements and renovations have been introduced to the art of bonsai to diversify it. Bonsai art has definitely evolved, developing along different lines from the original Chinese and Japanese descent. The Chinese bonsai is still very much rooted into ancient tradition, appearing crude and un-uniformed. Japanese bonsai, on the other hand, is refined and more
organised and groomed. At the end of the day, both types have their own admirers.
Many books about bonsai and related arts have been written in different languages. It goes without saying that this is an art that many people have already embraced. Blogs, websites, online magazines, periodicals, and many others have been made with respect to bonsai trees. It is a worldwide interest now.