The cultivation of the miniature potted trees called bonsai is a beloved part of Japanese culture, a skill which in the hands of the right man or woman becomes an art form celebrating beauty and nature.
But even though the art of bonsai has been most associated with Japan, it actually originated first around 600 AD in China and then spread eastward, coming to Japan only in the 12th century. During the Kamakura period in Japan, the nation adopted many Chinese cultural trademarks, among which was this delicate hobby, mainly spread by Japanese Buddhist monks who brought the tiny trees from pilgrimages to China.
The Japanese created a new distinct style by growing single trees instead of creating landscapes, which was the traditional Chinese way. The developed a more refined, naturalistic look which required more grooming, and thought of the trees as a visual representation of their beliefs about the harmony between man and the natural world. By the 14th century the practice of creating bonsai became less associated with religion and flourished as an independent art form, and today it is a favorite pastime for many passionate bonsai enthusiasts.
Enjoy this gallery of enchanting bonsai art!