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Facts of Japan - Bonsai art

Updated on May 4, 2011

The Bonsai art in Japan was originally brought to Japan by the Buddhist monks. It was during the Heian period that was in between 794 AD to 1191 AD. Thousands of years ago, Bonsai originated in Egypt and later spread to China. For Japan, the Bonsai had its roots in China only. But the regional techniques of Japan had influenced the Bonsai Art and it gradually developed to become one of the finest arts of Japan. And this art of creating the Bonsai enabled the Japan people to enjoy the beautiful nature in an outdoor setting.

The term Bonsai means cultivation in a pot. In other words, it is growing miniature trees and plants in a pot. The basic idea of Bonsai cultivation is to develop a plant, so small in size, yet should suggest the larger and true nature of the plant. Many varieties of plants, like Japanese cedars, Japanese White Pines, Japanese Black Pines and Japanese maples, are cultivated in this way. They greatly use azaleas to grow and create stunning Bonsai following years and years of wiring, pruning and close attention. For Japanese, Bonsai actually represents the philosophy of harmony between the nature, the soul and the man.

The vast majority of the Bonsai cultivation techniques grew in the 16th century and continued to improve till 18th century. Those techniques concentrated on shaping the trunk and branches of the tree. In the beginning this Bonsai art was limited to the aristocratic and noblemen of Japan. They thought it was their exclusive right and were quite proud to own the art with them.

It was only in 1868, this art gained so much popularity even with commoners and spread quickly all over Japan. This great art came to be known to the world only when Japan opened its doors to the world later.

The quality of Bonsai tree is of primary importance. It is measured on how great it portrays the true nature in such a miniature form. The trunk needs such an attention. It should have a tapered trunk. Further it must have branches around the tree. This generally gives a deeper visual touch to the Bonsai.

Another important aspect of Bonsai is the repotting of Bonsai. For some trees, it is usually done in two or three years. This is being done to ensure that the roots are in a position to absorb, water, air and fertilizer quite easily. Also in this process, the dead roots are removed. And again, some dead roots are kept to identify the Bonsai’s age as well. These Bonsai trees can live for almost 500 years.

Baisic tips

The root spread is the beautiful aspect of Bonsai tree. The roots that appear above the earth is supposed to be adding and enhancing the beauty of any Bonsai. Here again, unless otherwise the tree is old enough, the root spread do not appear above the earth.

The arrangement of the Bonsai branches is an art itself. It should bring out the actual tree’s nature and it should convey in the miniature form the hugeness and vastness of the tree when grown in the wild. Along with this concept, the branches should be pruned to exhibit a great beauty as well.

The trunk of the tree has many stylized forms. The basic form is called the straight trunk style. Then there are triple trunk, literati style, curved trunk, raised roots, windswept style and cascade style.

The premier quality of the art of Bonsai is that there is no end to this art. It evolves as long as the tree is alive and is significantly conveying the sense of timelessness to the universe.


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