What is the art of bonsai?

The art of bonsai is also known in China as “pun-sai”, the art of growing small trees or shrubs in a low pot to be used for ornamental purposes.

In the very beginning these trees were placed in pots and were molded in a way that made the leaves sparse, the tree trunk distorted and coarse to form a particular shape, more often than not the shape of animals, such as birds or dragons. Throughout China’s history there are numerous myths and legends about such creatures and now these bonsai trees in the shape of animals are valued as an art form.

Due to their origins in the imaginary, these model trees are very different from other types that make a point of keeping the original shape of the shrub.

After it’s origin in China, the art then spread to Japan where, as with many other such art forms, it was enhanced and cherished further. Moreover, the Japanese bonsai trees are so famous that they are considered a national treasure and, as such people are not allowed to carry them out of the country. The act of making and caring for a bonsai tree is considered by the Japanese people to be an ancient form of Eastern philosophies that speak of the spirituality of the harmony between the natural world and mankind’s role in it.

The art of bonsai has spread around the modern world as many people consider practicing this art a release from everyday stress. This art is a blend of sculpture and horticulture, both skills necessary in order to mold and bend the small trees.

The main goal of this process is to create a miniature tree that would look like a tree in nature, with all it’s powerful attributes and surprising it’s essence without giving away the fact that this form was created by design. In creating a bonsai tree, a highlight is placed on visual aspect, harmony is needed between the tree that is being grown and the container it is placed in. You can even place more than one tree in one pot. In case these trees are from the same species, this practice is known under the name “group plantings”. However, if different species are placed in the same container and if you add small figures or decorations the result is known as “Saikei”.

The trees are grouped based on the methods used to grow them, for instance the angle at which the trunk bends or the actual shape and number of the trunks, if they are grouped together or if they are cascading or slanted or grown upright either conventionally or unconventionally. Another aspect to consider is the size of the tree. They can vary from large ones to very small bonsai trees that fit in pots the size of a thimble.

The bonsai tree trunk needs to be reshaped to have all the branches arranged symmetrically around it for aesthetics. The lower part of the tree trunk needs to be visible so that the strength of the bonsai is on display.
Age is not always necessary to achieve an authentic air for the tree, there are different methods that you can use to create this effect. You can tie the branches down with wire while the tree is young, so that they are trained to grow the way you choose and thus reaching this aged look. There are methods you can use to make the tree seem like it has suffered a trauma in the past, by removing the bark off the trunk. These methods are called Sabamiki, Sharimiki and Jin.

Bonsai are the same as their larger natural brethren genetically. They only remain small in size due to the size of the pot they are planted in. In order to keep a proper balance between the tree and it’s tray, the top of the tree needs to be pruned regularly. The most commonly used trees for the art of bonsai are the juniper, maple and pine trees. However, due to the vast popularity of this art form, various regional plants have started to be used successfully to grow bonsai trees.

The rhythm in which the bonsai trees are replanted and have their roots pruned is regulated by the age of the plant. You can repot the older trees every 3 or 4 years, but while the tree is young you need to do so every 2 years. During this process, the roots are encouraged to grow and spread and it gives an appearance of vigor to the bonsai. It is usually performed during springtime, when the new buds have not yet opened.

Most of the people who get a taste of the art of bonsai set a deep bond with the trees and they ensure that they create beautiful visual effects. Moreover, they connect daily with the trees and when they are taken care of like this, bonsai trees can last for several generations like the regular sized types of trees.

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