Bonsai is said to have first appeared in China some thousands of years ago on a very basic scale. It was then known as pun-sai and it was the practice of growing a single specimen of tree in pots. During those days, the specimens showed very little leaves, and rugged and gnarled trunks that most often looked like dragons, animals or birds. With so many legends and myths surrounding the Chinese bonsai, the animal-like trunk and root formations are still very expensive today.
Bonsai making used to be called as Penjing in ancient China. It is believed to have originated from the Han Dynasty. During that time, the emperor of China had ordered a huge courtyard to be built. It had to be grand and include various landscapes found in his kingdom. So, to follow his order and please him, his subjects cultivated small trees to make it look realistic and attractive.
Looking at the small trees, the emperor was greatly pleased. He considered his small trees and garden as a prized possession. Over the years, he became so obsessed with it that he ordered people not to cultivate the plant. Death was awarded to those who broke his rule. For a long time, only people who had power and money were allowed to grow this plant. So a bonsai was considered as a valuable commodity for many generations.
Today, Chinese bonsai is still a very valuable commodity because it is one of the legacies that China has given the world. Some people, though, do not appreciate the art of bonsai making – they consider it like the practice of bonding the feet of women. In ancient China, women who had small feet were considered beautiful. So they purposely controlled the growth of women’s feet by making them wear iron sandals. Some people think of what is being done to the plants, confining their growth, in a similar fashion and dislike the practice of cultivating bonsai.
Chinese bonsai is actually a miniature of a landscape in pots made of different materials, shapes and sizes, and includes the arrangement of trees, flowers and mountainous rocks. It is an art that combines garden cultivation, painting and literature. Today, it has become very popular with the general public of China and all other parts of the world where people appreciate all forms of art. Bonsai is also a combination of natural and artistic beauty. A work of bonsai involves plants, rocks, water, soil, mountains and a horticulturist’s creativity, formation and care.
A horticulturist puts a bonsai in a small pot, presenting the beauty of Mother Nature along with it. Some people honor Chinese bonsai as a 3-D painting and even sometimes call it a silent poem, too. Bonsai can be created with changes in time, season, arrangements, moods and colors. Chinese bonsai is elegant and attractive, and provides food for thought for anyone who sees it. It not only reflects the joyous and artistic mood of the creator, but also imparts the true characteristics of life and growth. As a style, even today, there are great Chinse bonsai trees grown, and they enjoy a great reputation all over the world for their wild, organic looks.