History of Bonsai Trees
The art of creating exquisite and graceful living plant miniatures, that are called bonsai trees, is popular in many countries. It is known to the general public as bonsai art and is considered natively Japanese. At the same time, representatives of Western culture are attracted by the exotic appearance and are not interested in the spiritual component and bonsai tree origin, which is implicit for the uninitiated. Using the refined techniques of Eastern masters, Western man in New York, Toronto or Ottawa strives to achieve an external effect. And only a small part of those who are keen on the formation of dwarf trees know the true essence of this art hidden behind miniature leaves. So why are bonsai trees so special and what is their role in human history?
The true events that led to the birth of the tradition of growing living miniatures in various containers are lost in the history of ages. In the tombs of Ancient Egypt, there are images where similar plants are located near temples. It is believed that in the life of the Egyptians during the time of the pharaohs, Bonsai Trees played a role in religious rituals or methods of healing.
History of Bonsai Trees in India
In ancient India, medicinal plants in small containers were an attribute of itinerant healers and monks. This compactness made it possible to always have fresh ingredients on hand for the desired potion. Later on Ayurvedic medicine and Buddhism penetrated the territory of China travelling all the way from India. Most likely, plants carried in special containers, which are now called Bonsai Trees, appeared along with them. To facilitate transportation, their compactness was increased by regular cutting and trimming. As a result, the leaves became smaller, the branches grew thicker and the plant itself harmoniously decreased. Over time, such manipulations have become a technique for creating decorative miniatures.
Heritage of Bonsai Trees in China
China is considered the place where in the IV-II centuries the original art of creating miniature landscapes was born – penjing (盆景) or penjing (pen jing), where “pen” is a bowl, a pot and “jing” is a landscape. It has developed dramatically over the ages, forming new styles and directions, as well as penetrating the territory of neighboring countries: Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. In each country, the skill of miniaturizing plants was refracted in the light of local cultural traditions, mentality and nation’s heritage. As a result, different preferences and ideas about the ideal Bonsai Tree arose.
Japan and Bonsai Trees
The exact time when Japanese began to master the ability of creating Bonsai miniatures is unknown. According to some reports, this happened even before the 800s, according to others – in the XIII century. Known for their sophisticated aesthetics and penchant for symbolism, the Japanese have perfected the art of growing dwarf trees. At the same time, they impose extremely strict requirements on the formation of bonsai as well as the selection of a container, which have become almost indestructible canons.
It was the most canonized bonsai of the Land of the Rising Sun in the first half of the twentieth century that began the successful “conquest” of Europe and America. Today this traditional Japanese art has a huge number of admirers in different countries. And among the millions of directions formed, the vast majority are variations of the styles of Japanese masters.
Bonsai seems accessible and obvious to the eyes of every observer. But at the same time, behind its simplicity, there is a hidden meaning understandable only to the initiated. Agrotechnical techniques are accessible and common to everyone involved in the formation of plant miniatures. Moreover, the term bonsai is used both for the cultivation technique and for the dwarf plants themselves. Vegetable miniatures are created from normal trees and shrubs, which in a favorable environment would not reach their dwarf sizes.
Japanese bonsai is characterized by laconicism, naturalness and rigor. Just as a sculptor cuts off everything unnecessary from a block of marble, so a bonsaist forms a living dwarf “sculpture” keeping the minimum to achieve natural perfection.