cultures of East Asia (China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan)
originated in this country, just as Rome is said to be the origin of
Europe. Chinese people appreciated potted plants and trees since
the old times. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Chinese people
enjoyed potted plants as a miniature landscape called Penjing (=
landscape on a tray). In those days (the Nara Period in Japan),
the Japanese government often sent envoys to China and it is
said that those envoys brought the hobby back to Japan for the
first time. In the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), Zen Buddhism
was brought from China. Apparently, Chinese Zen masters
brought many practices, including the hobby of potting trees, to
Japan. This hobby became popular for the Japanese in the
Kamakura Period. The oldest record on Bonsai has been recorded
in the painting "IPPEN SHONIN HIJIRIE" (painted in 1299, the
Kamakura Period), with potted trees appearing in this painting. In
the Edo Period (1603-1967), Japan was not open to foreign
countries and so it remained in peace and people developed the
economy only internally. . A wealthy class of people then
appeared, including merchants and SAMURAI people, and they
came to enjoy gardening on their properties. Nowadays, Bonsai
mainly indicates potted trees for the Japanese. However, potted
plants and trees were called HACHIUE (= planting in a pot) in
those days and there were no differences between potted plants
and Bonsai. The third SHOGUN (ruler of Japan) IEMITSU
TOKUGAWA (life: 1604`1651; reign: 1623`51) was very fond of
potted trees, and his favorite Bonsai tree is still kept at the royal
palace of Japan. During the Edo Period, enthusiasts developed
the potting and trimming styles of Bonsai. Their purposes were to
recreate a miniature form of nature in a pot. It seems that people
came to use the word Bonsai (= planting on a tray) after the Meiji
Period. Nowadays, plants potted in the Bonsai style are called
KUSAMONO Bonsai and are appreciated by Bonsai enthusiasts
too. There are many Bonsai enthusiast groups in Japan. The
biggest organization for Bonsai is NIHON BONSAI KYOOKAI
(Nippon Bonsai Association). Several companies publish Bonsai
magazines like "KINDAI BONSAI" and "BONSAI SEKAI" in Japan.
for them. I once heard that some western person posed this
question to a Japanese Bonsai enthusiast, and he answered as
follows: "I just trim trees to make the shape that they would like
to be, as sculptors see perfect figures implicit in a block of stone
". What do you think?
should be balanced so that the tree looks like an old tree in the
the tree slanted by the affect of wind.
hanging from a cliff in the habitat.
curved so that it looks like a tree painted in BUNJINGA (= noble
person's painting, also called SUIBOKUGA). BUNJIN (noble people
or monks) were fond of painting the unique landscape of nature in
the earlier periods.
to recreate the tree with its branch affected by strong wind in
be on a cliff or rock in the habitat.
Bonsai enthusiasts try to make a miniature-sized Bonsai. It
seems that the total width of trees and plants should be up to
15cm. These Bonsai are so small that you can hold them in your
hand. In the Edo Period, DAIMYO (feudal lords) had to have an
audience with the SHOGUN (ruler of Japan) once a year. It is
said that they took these miniature Bonsais and enjoyed them on
the way to Edo (capital city) because they were small in size.
These days, growing spaces for the people living in densely
populated cities is limited in Japan. This hobby is thus prevalent
in such areas. Several publishing companies publish monthly
magazines on SHOHIN Bonsai. There is also an association on
SHOHIN Bonsai called All Japan Shohin-Bonsai Association.
plant or non-tree) and these too, are appreciated by Bonsai
enthusiasts. At Bonsai exhibitions, Bonsai enthusiasts often place
KUSAMONO Bonsai next to their main Bonsai so that the over-all
effect is balanced.