LITERAL MEANING "tray planting"
HANYU PINYIN pénzāi
YALE ROMANIZATION pùhn-jōi
REVISED ROMANIZATION bunjae
Japanese white pine from the National
"Bonsai" is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term _penzai _. The word _bonsai_ is often used in English as an umbrella term for all miniature trees in containers or pots.
The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation for the viewer, and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity for the grower. By contrast with other plant cultivation practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food or for medicine. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.
A bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material .
This may be a cutting, seedling, or small tree of a species suitable
for bonsai development.
The source specimen is shaped to be relatively small and to meet the aesthetic standards of bonsai. When the candidate bonsai nears its planned final size it is planted in a display pot, usually one designed for bonsai display in one of a few accepted shapes and proportions . From that point forward, its growth is restricted by the pot environment. Throughout the year, the bonsai is shaped to limit growth, redistribute foliar vigor to areas requiring further development, and meet the artist's detailed design.
The practice of bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfing , but
dwarfing generally refers to research, discovery, or creation of plant
cultivars that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Early versions * 1.2 Hachi-no-ki * 1.3 Classical period * 1.4 Modern bonsai
* 2 Cultivation and care
* 2.1 Material sources * 2.2 Techniques * 2.3 Care
* 3 Aesthetics
* 4 Display
* 4.1 Containers
* 5 Bonsai styles
* 5.1 Other styles
* 6 Size classifications * 7 Indoor bonsai * 8 See also * 9 References * 10 External links
Main article: History of bonsai
The earliest illustration of a penjing is found in the Qianling Mausoleum murals at the Tang-dynasty tomb of Crown Prince Zhanghuai , dating to 706.
Japanese art of bonsai originated from the Chinese practice of
penjing . From the 6th century onward, Imperial embassy personnel and
In the medieval period, recognizable bonsai were portrayed in handscroll paintings like the _Ippen shonin eden_ (1299). The 1195 scroll _Saigyo Monogatari Emaki_ was the earliest known to depict dwarfed potted trees in Japan. Wooden tray and dish-like pots with dwarf landscapes on modern-looking wooden shelves also appear in the 1309 _Kasuga-gongen-genki_ scroll. In 1351, dwarf trees displayed on short poles were portrayed in the _Boki Ekotoba_ scroll. Several other scrolls and paintings also included depictions of these kinds of trees.
A close relationship between Japan's Zen Buddhism and the potted
trees began to shape bonsai reputation and esthetics. In this period,
Chinese Chan (pronounced "Zen" in Japanese)
Chinese Penjing specimen with decorated and relatively deep ("bowl"-style) container
Around the 14th century, the term for dwarf potted trees was "the bowl's tree" (鉢の木 _hachi no ki_). This indicated use of a fairly deep pot, rather than the shallow pot denoted by the eventual term _bonsai_. _Hachi no Ki_ (_The Potted Trees_) is also the title of a Noh play by Zeami Motokiyo (1363–1444), based on a story c. 1383 about an impoverished samurai who burns his last three potted trees as firewood to warm a traveling monk. The monk is a disguised official who later rewards the samurai for his actions. In later centuries, woodblock prints by several artists depicted this popular drama. There was even a fabric design of the same name. Through these and other popular media, bonsai became known to a broad Japanese population.
By the end of the 18th century, bonsai cultivation in
Depicting foliage in the Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden
The popularity of bonsai began to grow outside the limited scope of
scholars and the nobility. On October 13, 1868, the Meiji Emperor
moved to his new capital in
New books, magazines, and public exhibitions made bonsai more
accessible to the Japanese populace. An Artistic
World War II
By 1940, about 300 bonsai dealers worked in Tokyo. Some 150 species of trees were being cultivated, and thousands of specimens annually were shipped to Europe and America. The first bonsai nurseries and clubs in the Americas were started by first and second-generation Japanese immigrants. Though this progress to international markets and enthusiasts was interrupted by the war, bonsai had by the 1940s become an art form of international interest and involvement.
Following World War II, a number of trends made the Japanese
tradition of bonsai increasingly accessible to Western and world
audiences. One key trend was the increase in the number, scope, and
prominence of bonsai exhibitions. For example, the Kokufu-ten bonsai
displays reappeared in 1947 after a four-year cancellation and became
annual affairs. These displays continue to this day, and are by
invitation only for eight days in February. In October 1964, a great
exhibition was held in Hibya Park by the private Kokufu Bonsai
Association, reorganized into the Nippon
A large display of bonsai and suiseki was held as part of Expo \'70 ,
and formal discussion was made of an international association of
enthusiasts. In 1975, the first Gafu-ten (Elegant-Style Exhibit) of
_shohin_ bonsai (13–25 cm (5–10 in) tall) was held. So was the
first Sakufu-ten (Creative
The First World
Another key trend was the increase in books on bonsai and related arts, now being published for the first time in English and other languages for audiences outside Japan. In 1952, Yuji Yoshimura , son of a leader in the Japanese bonsai community, collaborated with German diplomat and author Alfred Koehn to give bonsai demonstrations. Koehn had been an enthusiast before the war, and his 1937 book _Japanese Tray Landscapes_ had been published in English in Peking . Yoshimura's 1957 book _The Art of Bonsai_, written in English with his student Giovanna M. Halford, went on to be called the "classic Japanese bonsai bible for westerners" with over thirty printings. _ Multi-species saikei named Roan Mountain_ contains Shimpaku juniper and Zakura azalea.
The related art of saikei was introduced to English-speaking audiences in 1963 in Kawamoto and Kurihara's book _Bonsai-Saikei_. This book described tray landscapes made with younger plant material than was traditionally used in bonsai, providing an alternative to the use of large, older plants, few of which had escaped war damage.
A third trend was the increasing availability of expert bonsai
training, at first only in
The final trend supporting world involvement in bonsai is the
widening availability of specialized bonsai plant stock, soil
components, tools, pots, and other accessory items.
CULTIVATION AND CARE
Main article: Bonsai cultivation and care
Bonsai cultivation and care requires techniques and tools that are specialized to support the growth and long-term maintenance of trees in small containers.
All bonsai start with a specimen of source material, a plant that the
grower wishes to train into bonsai form.
* _Propagation_ from a source tree through cuttings or layering . * _Nursery stock_ directly from a nursery, or from a garden centre or similar resale establishment. * _Commercial bonsai growers_, which, in general, sell mature specimens that display bonsai aesthetic qualities already. * _Collecting_ suitable bonsai material in its original wild situation, successfully moving it, and replanting it in a container for development as bonsai. These trees are called yamadori and are often the most expensive and prized of all Bonsai.
This juniper makes extensive use of both jin (deadwood branches) and shari (trunk deadwood).
The practice of bonsai development incorporates a number of techniques either unique to bonsai or, if used in other forms of cultivation, applied in unusual ways that are particularly suitable to the bonsai domain. These techniques include:
* _Leaf trimming_, the selective removal of leaves (for most varieties of deciduous tree) or needles (for coniferous trees and some others) from a bonsai's trunk and branches. * _Pruning_ the trunk, branches, and roots of the candidate tree. * _Wiring_ branches and trunks allows the bonsai designer to create the desired general form and make detailed branch and leaf placements. * _Clamping_ using mechanical devices for shaping trunks and branches. * _Grafting_ new growing material (typically a bud, branch, or root) into a prepared area on the trunk or under the bark of the tree. * _Defoliation_, which can provide short-term dwarfing of foliage for certain deciduous species. * _ Deadwood bonsai techniques _ such as _jin_ and _shari_ simulate age and maturity in a bonsai.
Small trees grown in containers, like bonsai, require specialized care. Unlike houseplants and other subjects of container gardening, tree species in the wild , in general, grow roots up to several meters long and root structures encompassing several thousand liters of soil. In contrast, a typical bonsai container is under 25 centimeters in its largest dimension and 2 to 10 liters in volume. Branch and leaf (or needle) growth in trees is also of a larger scale in nature. Wild trees typically grow 5 meters or taller when mature, whereas the largest bonsai rarely exceed 1 meter and most specimens are significantly smaller. These size differences affect maturation, transpiration, nutrition, pest resistance, and many other aspects of tree biology. Maintaining the long-term health of a tree in a container requires some specialized care techniques:
* _Watering_ must be regular and must relate to the bonsai species' requirement for dry, moist, or wet soil. * _Repotting_ must occur at intervals dictated by the vigor and age of each tree. * _Tools_ have been developed for the specialized requirements of maintaining bonsai. * _Soil composition and fertilization_ must be specialized to the needs of each bonsai tree, although bonsai soil is almost always a loose, fast-draining mix of components. * _Location and overwintering_ are species-dependent when the bonsai is kept outdoors as different species require different light conditions. Few of the traditional bonsai species can survive inside a typical house, due to the usually dry indoor climate.
Main article: Bonsai aesthetics
Bonsai aesthetics are the aesthetic goals characterizing the Japanese tradition of growing an artistically shaped miniature tree in a container. Many Japanese cultural characteristics, in particular the influence of Zen Buddhism and the expression of Wabi-sabi , inform the bonsai tradition in Japan. Established art forms that share some aesthetic principles with bonsai include penjing and saikei . A number of other cultures around the globe have adopted the Japanese aesthetic approach to bonsai, and, while some variations have begun to appear, most hew closely to the rules and design philosophies of the Japanese tradition.
Over centuries of practice, the Japanese bonsai aesthetic has encoded some important techniques and design guidelines. Like the aesthetic rules that govern, for example, Western common practice period music, bonsai's guidelines help practitioners work within an established tradition with some assurance of success. Simply following the guidelines alone will not guarantee a successful result. Nevertheless, these design rules can rarely be broken without reducing the impact of the bonsai specimen. Some key principles in bonsai aesthetics include:
* _Miniaturization_: By definition, a bonsai is a tree kept small enough to be container-grown while otherwise fostered to have a mature appearance. * _Proportion among elements_: The most prized proportions mimic those of a full-grown tree as closely as possible. Small trees with large leaves or needles are out of proportion and are avoided, as is a thin trunk with thick branches. * _Asymmetry_: Bonsai aesthetics discourage strict radial or bilateral symmetry in branch and root placement. * _No trace of the artist_: The designer's touch must not be apparent to the viewer. If a branch is removed in shaping the tree, the scar will be concealed. Likewise, wiring should be removed or at least concealed when the bonsai is shown, and must leave no permanent marks on the branch or bark. * _Poignancy_: Many of the formal rules of bonsai help the grower create a tree that expresses Wabi-sabi , or portrays an aspect of _mono no aware _.
A bonsai display presents one or more bonsai specimens in a way that allows a viewer to see all the important features of the bonsai from the most advantageous position. That position emphasizes the bonsai's defined "front", which is designed into all bonsai. It places the bonsai at a height that allows the viewer to imagine the bonsai as a full-size tree seen from a distance, siting the bonsai neither so low that the viewer appears to be hovering in the sky above it nor so high that the viewer appears to be looking up at the tree from beneath the ground. Noted bonsai writer Peter Adams recommends that bonsai be shown as if "in an art gallery: at the right height; in isolation; against a plain background, devoid of all redundancies such as labels and vulgar little accessories."
For outdoor displays, there are few aesthetic rules. Many outdoor displays are semi-permanent, with the bonsai trees in place for weeks or months at a time. To avoid damaging the trees, therefore, an outdoor display must not impede the amount of sunlight needed for the trees on display, must support watering, and may also have to block excessive wind or precipitation. As a result of these practical constraints, outdoor displays are often rustic in style, with simple wood or stone components. A common design is the bench, sometimes with sections at different heights to suit different sizes of bonsai, along which bonsai are placed in a line. Where space allows, outdoor bonsai specimens are spaced far enough apart that the viewer can concentrate on one at a time. When the trees are too close to each other, aesthetic discord between adjacent trees of different sizes or styles can confuse the viewer, a problem addressed by exhibition displays.
Exhibition displays allow many bonsai to be displayed in a temporary exhibition format, typically indoors, as would be seen in a bonsai design competition. To allow many trees to be located close together, exhibition displays often use a sequence of small alcoves , each containing one pot and its bonsai contents. The walls or dividers between the alcoves make it easier to view only one bonsai at a time. The back of the alcove is a neutral color and pattern to avoid distracting the viewer's eye. The bonsai pot is almost always placed on a formal stand, of a size and design selected to complement the bonsai and its pot.
Indoors, a formal bonsai display is arranged to represent a landscape, and traditionally consists of the featured bonsai tree in an appropriate pot atop a wooden stand, along with a shitakusa (companion plant) representing the foreground, and a hanging scroll representing the background. These three elements are chosen to complement each other and evoke a particular season, and are composed asymmetrically to mimic nature. When displayed inside a traditional Japanese home, a formal bonsai display will often be placed within the home's tokonoma or formal display alcove. An indoor display is usually very temporary, lasting a day or two, as most bonsai are intolerant of indoor conditions and lose vigor rapidly within the house.
Assorted bonsai pots
A variety of informal containers may house the bonsai during its development, and even trees that have been formally planted in a bonsai pot may be returned to growing boxes from time to time. A large growing box can house several bonsai and provide a great volume of soil per tree to encourage root growth. A training box will have a single specimen, and a smaller volume of soil that helps condition the bonsai to the eventual size and shape of the formal bonsai container. There are no aesthetic guidelines for these development containers, and they may be of any material, size, and shape that suit the grower.
Completed trees are grown in formal bonsai containers. These containers are usually ceramic pots, which come in a variety of shapes and colors and may be glazed or unglazed. Unlike many common plant containers, bonsai pots have drainage holes in the bottom surface to complement fast-draining bonsai soil, allowing excess water to escape the pot. Growers cover the holes with a screening to prevent soil from falling out and to hinder pests from entering the pots from below. Pots usually have vertical sides, so that the tree's root mass can easily be removed for inspection, pruning, and replanting, although this is a practical consideration and other container shapes are acceptable.
There are alternatives to the conventional ceramic pot. Multi-tree bonsai may be created atop a fairly flat slab of rock, with the soil mounded above the rock surface and the trees planted within the raised soil. In recent times, bonsai creators have also begun to fabricate rock-like slabs from raw materials including concrete and glass-reinforced plastic . Such constructed surfaces can be made much lighter than solid rock, can include depressions or pockets for additional soil, and can be designed for drainage of water, all characteristics difficult to achieve with solid rock slabs. Other unconventional containers can also be used, but in formal bonsai display and competitions in Japan, the ceramic bonsai pot is the most common container.
For bonsai being shown formally in their completed state, pot shape, color, and size are chosen to complement the tree as a picture frame is chosen to complement a painting. In general, containers with straight sides and sharp corners are used for formally shaped plants, while oval or round containers are used for plants with informal designs. Many aesthetic guidelines affect the selection of pot finish and color. For example, evergreen bonsai are often placed in unglazed pots, while deciduous trees usually appear in glazed pots. Pots are also distinguished by their size. The overall design of the bonsai tree, the thickness of its trunk, and its height are considered when determining the size of a suitable pot.
Some pots are highly collectible, like ancient Chinese or Japanese
pots made in regions with experienced pot makers such as Tokoname,
The Japanese tradition describes bonsai tree designs using a set of commonly understood, named styles. The most common styles include formal upright, informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade, cascade, raft, literati, and group/forest. Less common forms include windswept, weeping, split-trunk, and driftwood styles. These terms are not mutually exclusive, and a single bonsai specimen can exhibit more than one style characteristic. When a bonsai specimen falls into multiple style categories, the common practice is to describe it by the dominant or most striking characteristic.
A frequently used set of styles describes the orientation of the bonsai tree's main trunk. Different terms are used for a tree with its apex directly over the center of the trunk's entry into the soil, slightly to the side of that center, deeply inclined to one side, and inclined below the point at which the trunk of the bonsai enters the soil.
* FORMAL UPRIGHT or _chokkan_ (直幹) style trees are characterized by a straight, upright, tapering trunk. Branches progress regularly from the thickest and broadest at the bottom to the finest and shortest at the top. * INFORMAL UPRIGHT or _moyogi_ (模様木) trees incorporate visible curves in trunk and branches, but the apex of the informal upright is located directly above the trunk's entry into the soil line. * SLANT-STYLE or _shakan_ (斜幹) bonsai possess straight trunks like those of bonsai grown in the formal upright style. However, the slant style trunk emerges from the soil at an angle, and the apex of the bonsai will be located to the left or right of the root base. * CASCADE-STYLE or _kengai_ (懸崖) specimens are modeled after trees that grow over water or down the sides of mountains. The apex (tip of the tree) in the SEMI-CASCADE-STYLE or _han kengai_ (半懸崖) bonsai extend just at or beneath the lip of the bonsai pot; the apex of a (full) cascade style falls below the base of the pot.
A number of styles describe the trunk shape and bark finish. For example, the deadwood bonsai styles identify trees with prominent dead branches or trunk scarring.
* SHARI or _sharimiki_ (舎利幹) style involves portraying a tree in its struggle to live while a significant part of its trunk is bare of bark.
Although most bonsai trees are planted directly into the soil, there are styles describing trees planted on rock.
* ROOT-OVER-ROCK or _sekijoju_ (石上樹) is a style in which the roots of the tree are wrapped around a rock, entering the soil at the base of the rock. * GROWING-IN-A-ROCK or _ishizuke_ or _ishitsuki_ (石付) style means the roots of the tree are growing in soil contained within the cracks and holes of the rock.
While the majority of bonsai specimens feature a single tree, there are well-established style categories for specimens with multiple trunks.
* FOREST (OR GROUP) or _yose ue_ (寄せ植え) style comprises a planting of several or many trees of one species, typically an odd number, in a bonsai pot. * MULTI-TRUNK styles like _sokan_ and _sankan_ have all the trunks growing out of one spot with one root system, so the bonsai is actually a single tree. * RAFT-STYLE or _ikadabuki_ (筏吹き) bonsai mimic a natural phenomenon that occurs when a tree topples onto its side, for example, from erosion or another natural force. Branches along the top side of the trunk continue to grow as a group of new trunks.
A few styles do not fit into the preceding categories. These include:
* LITERATI or _bunjin-gi_ (文人木) style is characterized by a generally bare trunk line, with branches reduced to a minimum, and foliage placed toward the top of a long, often contorted trunk. * BROOM or _hokidachi_ (箒立ち) style is employed for trees with fine branching, like elms. The trunk is straight and branches out in all directions about ⅓ of the way up the entire height of the tree. The branches and leaves form a ball-shaped crown. * WINDSWEPT or _fukinagashi_ (吹き流し) style describes a tree that appears to be affected by strong winds blowing continuously from one direction, as might shape a tree atop a mountain ridge or on an exposed shoreline.
Japanese bonsai exhibitions and catalogs frequently refer to the size of individual bonsai specimens by assigning them to size classes (see table below). Not all sources agree on the exact sizes or names for these size ranges, but the concept of the ranges is well-established and useful to both the cultivation and the aesthetic understanding of the trees. A photograph of a bonsai may not give the viewer an accurate impression of the tree's real size, so printed documents may complement a photograph by naming the bonsai's size class. The size class implies the height and weight of the tree in its container.
In the very largest size ranges, a recognized Japanese practice is to name the trees "two-handed", "four-handed", and so on, based on the number of men required to move the tree and pot. These trees will have dozens of branches and can closely simulate a full-size tree. The very largest size, called "imperial", is named after the enormous potted trees of Japan's Imperial Palace .
At the other end of the size spectrum, there are a number of specific techniques and styles associated solely with the smallest common sizes, _mame_ and _shito_. These techniques take advantage of the bonsai's minute dimensions and compensate for the limited number of branches and leaves that can appear on a tree this small.
COMMON NAMES FOR BONSAI SIZE CLASSES
COMMON NAME SIZE CLASS TREE HEIGHT
Imperial bonsai Eight-handed 152–203 cm (60–80 in)
_Hachi-uye_ Six-handed 102–152 cm (40–60 in)
_Dai_ Four-handed 76–122 cm (30–48 in)
_Omono_ Four-handed 76–122 cm (30–48 in)
COMMON NAME SIZE CLASS TREE HEIGHT
_Chiu_ Two-handed 41–91 cm (16–36 in)
_Chumono_ Two-handed 41–91 cm (16–36 in)
_Katade-mochi_ One-handed 25–46 cm (10–18 in)
COMMON NAME SIZE CLASS TREE HEIGHT
_Komono_ One-handed 15–25 cm (6–10 in)
_Shohin_ One-handed 13–20 cm (5–8 in)
_Mame_ Palm size 5–15 cm (2–6 in)
_Shito_ Fingertip size 5–10 cm (2–4 in)
_Keshitsubo_ Poppy-seed size 3–8 cm (1–3 in)
Main article: Indoor bonsai
The Japanese tradition of bonsai does not include indoor bonsai, and bonsai appearing at Japanese exhibitions or in catalogs have been grown outdoors for their entire lives. In less-traditional settings, including climates more severe than Japan's, indoor bonsai may appear in the form of potted trees cultivated for the indoor environment.
Traditionally, bonsai are temperate climate trees grown outdoors in containers. Kept in the artificial environment of a home, these trees weaken and die. But a number of tropical and sub-tropical tree species will survive and grow indoors. Some of these tropical and sub-tropical species are suited to bonsai aesthetics and can be shaped much as traditional outdoor bonsai are.
* Trees portal
* Bonsai aesthetics – aesthetics of Japanese tradition in bonsai * Bonsai cultivation and care – cultivation and care of small, container-grown trees * Bonsai styles – conventional styles in the Japanese tradition * List of bonsai on stamps * List of species used in bonsai * Mambonsai – pop culture twist on bonsai * Micro landschaft - more general miniature gardening and aquatics * Bonsai kitten
* ^ Gustafson, Herbert L. (1995). _Miniature Bonsai_. Sterling
Publishing Company, Inc. p. 9. ISBN 0-8069-0982-X .
* ^ _A_ _B_ Chan, Peter (1987). _
* ^ "Club Newsletter On-Line". Magical Miniature Landscapes.
* ^ "How Many
Yuji Yoshimura & Barbara M. Halford (1957). _The Art of Bonsai:
Creation, Care and Enjoyment_. Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon VT
USA. pp. 65–66. ISBN 0-8048-2091-0 .
* ^ Zane, "Forest Style Bonsai"; retrieved 2012-12-20.
* ^ Zane, "Broom Style Bonsai"; retrieved 2012-12-20.
* ^ Koreshoff. _Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy_.
* ^ Gustafson. _Miniature Bonsai_. p. 17.
* ^ Gustafson. _Miniature Bonsai_. p. 18.
* ^ Lesniewicz, Paul (1996). _
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