John Naka’s Goshin, is on display at the United States National
Bonsai at garden show in Tatton Park (Cheshire)
Bonsai (?? ) (lit. bon-planted) is the art of aesthetic
miniaturization of trees, or of developing woody or
semi-woody plants shaped as trees, by growing them in
containers. Cultivation includes techniques for shaping,
watering, and repotting in various styles of containers.
’Bonsai’ is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier
Chinese term penzai (??). A ’bon’ is a tray-like pot
typically used in bonsai culture. The word bonsai is
used in the West as an umbrella term for all miniature
trees in containers or pots.
Container-grown plants, including trees and many other
kinds of plants, have a history stretching back at least to
the early times of Egyptian culture. Pictorial records
from around 4000 BC show trees growing in containers
cut into rock. Pharaoh Ramesses III donated gardens
consisting of potted olives, date palms, and other plants
to hundreds of temples. Pre-Common-Era India used
container-grown trees for medicine and food.
The word penzai first appeared in writing in China
during the Jin Dynasty, in the period 265AD – 420AD.
Over time, the practice developed into new forms in
various parts of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Thail-
and. Notably, container-grown trees were popularized in
Japan during China’s Song Dynasty, a period of cultural
growth when the Japanese experienced and adopted
their own versions of many Chinese practices. At this
time, the term for dwarf potted trees was "the bowl’s
tree" (??? ,hachi-no-ki ), denoting the use of a deep pot.
The c.1300 rhymed prose essay, Rhymeprose on a Mini-
ature Landscape Garden, by the Japanese Zen monk Kokan
Shiren, outlines aesthetic principles for bonsai, bonseki,
and garden architecture itself.
At first, the Japanese used miniaturized trees grown
in containers to decorate their homes and gardens.
During the Tokugawa period, landscape gardening at-
tained new importance. Cultivation of plants such