Bonsai Tree Meaning

By Ruth Morgan

Many people who admire bonsai ask about the origin and meaning of  bonsai tree. So here are some facts.

Bonsai is an ancient art form that originated in China and Japan and is primarily focused on producing beautiful miniaturized trees and plants. Bonsai is in fact a Japanese version of the original Chinese word ‘pun-sai’ that was applied to this oriental art form.

The Chinese also created ‘penjing’ – miniature landscapes in shallow containers – which were in existence before the single bonsai tree concept was developed. There are wall paintings of penjing dating back to the Han dynasty in 200 BC. So it has been around a long time!

The art of bonsai was introduced to the west as a result of American and British troops returning home from the Far East following the second world war.

The word ‘bonsai’ is made up of two root words, ‘bon’ meaning tray and ‘sai’ which means plant. Thus, a literal translation is ‘plant in a tray’ which gives a ‘flavour’ of the art of bonsai.

Bonsai means 'Tree in a Pot'

An essential part of bonsai is that the plants are always planted in a pot of some type. There are many different forms of pot used for the purpose of growing bonsai trees.  You will often see the term ‘tree in a pot’ used to describe bonsai.

However, this represents only a hint of what bonsai is really about.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about bonsai is that it is all about aesthetics, the beauty of the tree or plant. Whilst many people understand that bonsai is something to do with growing little trees, they perhaps do not appreciate that the most important thing is to grow a majestic small tree.

A small tree or plant is not accepted as bonsai until it has been carefully pruned and trained into the desired shape. Bonsai trees are not necessarily naturally small, nor are they the shape that they are because that is the way they were going to grow anyway.

Topics: Bonsai

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