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BONSAI: an art without end


14 April 2020

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BONSAI: an art without end

BONSAI: an art without end

Bonsai is another one of Japan’s famous form of disciplined art.  It is the growing of miniature trees using shallow pots or trays.  Other cultures also have a similar practice, but Japan has its own unique style and technique.  Zen Buddhism is the main influencing part for bonsai cultivation, emphasizing on simplicity and gentle respect for nature.

Bon means “tray” or “low-sided pot”, while sai means “planting(s).”  Unlike dwarfing wherein existing plant cultivars are genetically altered to make permanent, mini versions, bonsai uses carefully chosen parts of any tree and then cultivating it to resemble the original full-grown tree.  Cultivation techniques used in bonsai include grafting, pruning, root reduction, leaf trimming, defoliation, wiring, and pot confinement.

Bonsai making and the ancestry of its trees originated from China.  Japanese Buddhist students studying in China during the 6th century brought back into their country penjing (Chinese version for bonsai) souvenirs.  Initially, bonsai were enjoyed by priests, the wealthy, and officials of Japan.  However, it was much later that bonsai growing was widely appreciated by Japanese commoners.  By then books, plays, and other literature were already speaking about bonsai and its beauty.

Bonsai can live up to a hundred years or so.  It has become more than just a hobby and an aesthetic expression.  Bonsai has also become a family treasure that is handed down from one generation to the next.  In fact, a five-needle pine, known as Sandai-Shogun-No Matsu, was trained as a bonsai from the 17th century by Tokugawa lemitsu, the third shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty.  This plant is considered as one of the National Treasures of Japan and is kept within the Tokyo Imperial Palace today.

There are a number of bonsai types.  The most common types are upright, slanting, or cascading.

Still, many styles are being created such as plants planted in rocks, and bonsai with multiple trunks.  But what’s most important is that the tree is allowed to express itself freely; while the cultivator aids the plant in achieving a beautiful, balanced form.

Said to be an art without end a bonsai must be continually tended so long as it remains alive.  Surely, bonsai growing takes up an enormous part of your time and patience, but the reward of having a beautiful, healthy tree adorning your home is simply priceless!

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