The History Of The Bonsai Tree

The bonsai tree has become an icon of Japanese culture, but where did it come from? How did these spectacularly twisted, petite, potted trees become commonplace in every plant nursery? Can something so beautiful be natural, or has man intervened? In today’s blog, the bonsai experts at Biogold Original are here to discuss the rich history of bonsai. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Bonsai?

If you hear the term “bonsai tree,” you likely imagine a miniature tree in a small pot or tray that has twisting branches and tiny leaves. However, bonsai is not necessarily the tree itself, but the art form used to create this small wonder. Bonsai is a Japanese word meaning “tray planting.” While typically associated with Japanese culture, the art from actually traces back thousands of years to China. The Chinese developed ways to bind and prune young trees in a manner that would keep them small, yet give them a gnarled, archaic appearance called penjing. From the art form of penjing, bonsai emerged, offering its own unique take on a historical practice.

The History Of Bonsai

Penjing originated in China thousands of years ago. During the third and fourth centuries, it was believed that sacred people had the ability to shrink down entire landscapes. While there were no depictions of miniature potted trees until a few hundred years later, it is believed that this legend indicates the art form had been around for centuries. Around the sixth and seventh century, travelers brought the art of penjing from China to Japan, calling it bonsai. In the year 970, a work of Japanese fiction called Utsubo Monogatari, or “The Tale Of The Hollow Tree,” depicted the art of bonsai, saying, “A tree that is left growing in its natural state is a crude thing. It is only when it is kept close to human being who fashion it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to move one.” The little trees began to gain acclaim and became commonplace in the homes of the very wealthy and noble and were seen as status symbols.

By the 1300s, bonsai had become a highly respected art form, with new apprentices learning the trade as the trees became more popular. Around that time, the bonsai tree became more and more affordable, allowing average households to buy and keep bonsai trees. Soon, the bonsai became such a common sight in society, that it became ingrained as part of Japanese culture.

In the following centuries, the art of bonsai spread across the globe as merchants traveled from Asia to other continents, taking bonsai trees and the knowledge of how to create them as they went. Soon, the major cities of the world featured bonsai in exhibitions, allowing other regions to see the magic of these little trees for the first time.

An art form once reserved to a single continent is now available for people all over the world. With the right supplies and a little patience, you can grow, cultivate, and shape bonsai trees to create beautiful sights.

How Are Bonsai Trees Shaped

So, if bonsai is an art form, how does one partake in the craft? As we mentioned above, a bonsai is not a miniature version of a larger tree in the same way you might see a teacup poodle. Instead, bonsai plants are made by taking a young tree, commonly a juniper or pine tree, and using means to alter the shape of the tree, as well as pruning it to ensure it does not get too big. In the past, bamboo or hemp fibers were fashioned into a type of rope that would be used to pull and twist the flexible branches of a young tree. As the branches grew, they would be molded into the shape that the artist determined. These days, many bonsai artists shape their trees by spiraling sturdy wire around the trunk and branches, bending them into whatever shape they choose. Special pruning techniques are used to keep the tree small, with most bonsai trees being one to two feet tall.

Bonsai In America

America first became fascinated with bonsai trees in the late 1800s and early 1900s as they made their way from expositions and fairs. However, they did not truly take off in the West until after World War II, as more and more Americans learned about the interesting trees. Soon, bonsai cultivation books began to be published in English and other languages, and suddenly anyone who wanted to could learn the art of bonsai.

These days, you can get everything you need to start creating, shaping, and cultivating bonsai trees. At Biogold Original, we offer the best organic bonsai fertilizer on the market so you can keep your bonsai trees healthy and strong by giving them the nourishment they need to thrive. Shop our website to learn more!