Bonsai is a personal experience offering a remarkable amount of personal satisfaction. This art form has become an established pastime throughout the world as more and more people come to understand this fascinating hobby. Before you give way to your creative urge and plant your first seedling, however, it might be interesting to explore some facts concerning bonsai and how it has evolved over time. Did you know:
That the origin of Bonsai, while often attributed to the Japanese, is actually Chinese in derivation. Many experts agree that bonsai, know as Pensai in China, was practiced by scholars, monks and the noble classes of China as far back as 600 A.D. A few centuries later, bonsai, along with Zen Buddhism, and much of the best of Chinese culture was brought to Japan.
That the word “Bonsai”, which is pronounced “Bone- Sigh”, is made up of the two Japanese characters: “Bon” meaning tray and “sai” meaning plant, which when literally translated means: tray plant.
That an earthquake is responsible for shifting the “epicenter” of bonsai cultivation in Japan. In 1923 an 8.3 magnitude earthquake devastated the entire Kanto region of Japan. Destroying vast portions of the two largest cities: Tokyo and Yokohama; along with a majority of the commercial bonsai businesses. As a result, the bonsai business community, in an effort to save their livelihoods, collectively purchased a tract of land outside of Tokyo, where their businesses once again flourished. Hence, a new epicenter of bonsai cultivation in Japan was created (which exists and thrives to this day).
That in 1976 the people of Japan, in honor of the USA Bicentennial Celebration, presented to America 53 priceless bonsai trees and 6 remarkable viewing stones. These gifts were to become the foundation of our national collection. This magnificent group is housed at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, located within the U.S. National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C. It has since become the largest collection of its kind – housing bonsai from around the world!
That all plants have a Botanical name — a name that is unique to them — and this is often called the Botanical name, although some people prefer to use the term: Latin name or Scientific name, instead. Plant names are based on the Latin language, which was considered the universal language during the 18th century when a vast majority of the “naming” of newly discovered plants was taking place. Botanical names are descriptive. They describe many characteristics specific to that plant such as: the place of origin, color, growth habit, leaf size, bark texture, etc.
That displaying a bonsai is an art onto itself. The traditional elements of bonsai display include: a bonsai tree, a display table or stand, an accent item, and a scroll. Each of these elements plays a vital role in the display by constructing, generating, and producing an emotional and intellectual panorama. The bonsai tree is and always should be the most important component of every display.
As you can imagine the foregoing is merely a fundamental insight into the world of bonsai founded on communion with nature. I urge all with an interest in this popular hobby to go ahead and create their own work of art. The principles of bonsai are simple and easy to apply and many invaluable teaching resources are available to assist.
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