Regardless of your location, hobbies, or culture, the term “bonsai” has likely filtered through the endless abyss of ideas you run into on a day-to-day basis, possibly making you wonder what the word entails. It’s often associated with Japan, plants, and sometimes even Feng Shui, but the question lingers in plenty of minds: what does bonsai mean?
Contrary to popular belief, bonsai is more than just a plant—it’s an art. The symbolic, intentional, and spiritual form dates back approximately two thousand years and is practiced throughout the world today.
But, what is it, really?
To give you some insight into bonsai, we’ll dive deep into the history of the art and discuss why it’s so meaningful to each individual crafter. So, without further ado, let’s jump in!
What is Bonsai?
The word “bonsai” derives from Japan and translates to literally mean “planted in a container.” And, in short, that’s the basic idea behind bonsai.
But it’s so much more than that. Bonsai is an ancient, sacred symbol of harmony, balance, and simplicity, allowing each grower to find a sense of peace wherever they are. Bonsai, in general, is a practice designed to bring good luck and harmony to the grower’s life.
Bonsai trees begin as seedlings, just like average-sized trees that grow in nature. However, bonsai trees become special through careful pruning, cultivating, and caring for the plant as it stunts in a miniature pot.
The History of Bonsai
Although the term was coined in Japan, the art of bonsai originally began in China, where they used special techniques to grow miniature landscapes in containers. In 700 AD China, this practice was known as “penjing” and was reserved for Chinese royalty.
As Japanese Zen Buddhists visited China, penjing began to catch their attention. Monks brought the concept back to Japan, where they simplified it to growing only trees. And thus, bonsai was born.
Bonsai soon became common practice for everyone in Japanese culture. Cultivating miniature trees became widely accepted as a reflection of spirituality. Bonsai growers dedicated themselves to the art to respect nature and remember to incorporate simplicity into life. Today, bonsai is practiced all around the globe, offering a unique and personal meaning for each crafter.
Why Do People Choose Bonsai?
Although it may seem like a simple tradition that merely keeps people busy, bonsai has several benefits for those who practice the art.
At the least, a bonsai tree can bring the central aspects of nature into your life. From its constant flow to its ability to restore itself, the environment is symbolic of peace, harmony, and all-in-all, life.
The outdoors is an extraordinary, life-giving place that each of us finds significant in our own way. By cultivating a bonsai tree, you can make it possible to add a piece of nature into your home, your office, or anywhere you'd like. Bonsai provides the same benefits that nature’s trees offer (i.e., purifying the air, releasing oxygen, bearing fruit, and regenerating), in a small form that you can add to any space. With a bonsai tree, you can open your heart and mind to the energy that nature provides and allow it to add balance.
Not only that, but bonsai trees move through the same life cycles that we undergo as humans. Trees move effortlessly from birth to full-grown, which can help us embrace the daunting phases of life and find more value in the present.
And, finally, dedicating yourself to a practice such as Bonsai is beneficial in itself. Tapping into your nurturing side can have considerable benefits. And, by caring for something outside of yourself, you can achieve growth in the same way as your bonsai tree. Bonding to something—even a plant—can help us understand the true meaning of life and find joy in the little things.
Whether it’s bringing balance and simplicity into your own life or teaching other people about its history, there are many benefits for those who practice the art of bonsai. If you’re looking for something that will encourage good luck and harmony to flow into your life, bonsai is a worthwhile practice that will inevitably give you something in return. You never know what a tree can teach you as you help it grow over time, but we can tell you one thing—once you dive into this ancient art form, there’s no going back.
What does Bonsai mean to you? Why did you start practicing bonsai? Share your thoughts below and be sure to subscribe the blog for all my bonsai related updates! Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai.