To have a good understanding of what Bonsai is, we first need to know the meaning and the history. Originating in the Chinese empire, Bonsai is a fascinating and unique art-form combining Asian aesthetics and horticultural techniques.
More than 2000 years ago, the Chinese created miniature landscapes with Bonsai. It was believed they had more magical powers the smaller they were in comparison to the original. They believed by studying the Bonsai’s magical properties, you would gain access to them.
700 years ago, during the Kamakura period, the Japanese would copy the art-form, creating a style that is distinctively Japanese. They would grow single trees though instead of creating landscapes as the Chinese did. We now know this as the Bonsai tree, the literal meaning of Bonsai is “planted in a container”.
This is a word that is frequently misspelled. The purpose of growing a Bonsai tree is to create a miniature size of a real tree. Genetically, they are not dwarf plants and in fact, you can grow any tree into a smaller version.
Initially, it was only society’s elite would practice pun-Tsai, using native-collected specimens. The trees were a generous gift throughout China. When the Japanese adopted the tree during the Kamakura period, as they did many of the cultural trademarks of the Chinese, the period in which Japan adopted most of China’s cultural trademarks, the Bonsai would become a part of Zen Buddhism.
Approximately five-thousand years ago, the Chinese would use earthenware and created basins or flattened bowls. Then through the Chinese Bronze Age, about 1000 years later, they would become the selected shapes for recreating religious and political ceremonial bowls in bronze. Over 2,300 years ago, the Chinese Five Agents Theory then rolled off the idea of the strength of miniature replicas for their earth, fire, metal, water, and wood theories.
Under Han the Emperor, more than 2500 years later, imports of new aromatics and incenses would take place, thanks to the open trading with China’s neighbors. From that, a new vessel design would be created: incense burners shaped like mountain peaks. These would rise above and became the symbol of Immortal’s abode which was a popular idea that there were mythic Islands where the Blessed resided.
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