August 4, 2021

History Of The Bonsai [2021 Edition]

The history of the bonsai tree is shrouded in mystery. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when this art form originated, but some evidence suggests that it was around 400 A.D., during the Ming dynasty in China. The word “bonsai” means “tray planting” or “planting on a small tray.”

A bonsai tree can be any size and shape, but typically they are smaller than full-sized trees because they’re kept small so that their branches don’t grow too large for their pots. Bonsais often have long and twisted trunks with complicated root systems, which make them look very different from normal trees. If you want your bonsai to look like an actual full-sized tree, you can use a technique called trunk-chopping.

A master bonsai artist takes an ordinary plant that can survive indoors and trains it to grow into a miniature version of the species. There are different schools of thought on what makes a good bonsai.

Some people insist on using only one variety of tree; others prefer to use trees of different species together. You can also find bonsai that have been trained into a variety of shapes, including balls, pyramids and cascades.

Let’s look at the history of the bonsai in China, Japan and the West.

History of the bonsai tree in China

China’s history with the bonsai can be dated back more than four thousand years ago, during the Stone Age when people used knotted ropes and twisted branches to shape dead trees into what we now know as bonsai trees.

The history of bonsai in China began during the late Song dynasty (960-1271) when a Buddhist monk named Kuiji returned to China from Japan. The Japanese had been cultivating miniature trees for centuries, but it wasn’t until after his visit that the art began to flourish.

A well-regarded book on the history of bonsai in China was written by Jukoh Hosoe in 1666.

It’s called “Garden of the Master of Kurikoma” and is one of the oldest history books on bonsais available today.

The book states that there are only three kinds of tree suitable for training into a bonsai: Chinese quince, Chinese bayberry and Japanese pagoda tree.

The history of bonsai in China was recorded for the first time during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), when people discovered that they could shape trees into miniature versions early on by chopping off branches to expose more trunk.

The histor is closely tied to the history of Chinese philosophy.  Over a period of over four thousand years, there have been fourteen dynasties-including the Han, Tang, Song and Ming dynasties-that ruled China.

There have also been nine schools of thought or philosophies governing the history of bonsai in China (Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism, Mohism, Buddhism, etc.), all of which had a major influence on the history of bonsai in China.

The history spans several different dynasties and philosophies; it is much more than just the history of miniature trees. Bonsais have been grown for many reasons throughout history, but they all share the same history of bonsai in China.

The history of bonsais include five thousand years, from Stone Age to today.

History of the bonsai in Japan

Bonsais history can also be traced back at least one thousand years to the Yorukawa-ryu, a history book on bonsai written and illustrated in 1213 A.D.

The history of bonsai in Japan is chronicled through Japanese history books such as Kaigetsudo Meigi Zu by Masamitsu I, which dates back to the history of bonsai in Japan.

Written by Masamitsu I in 1666 A.D., Kaigetsudo Meigi Zu is a history book on bonsai that was written as an account of the author’s visits to famous workshops and collections during the history of bonsai in Japan. It’s one of the history books on bonsai.

Furthermore additional studies have shown can be dated back to at least two thousand years before Christ.

Not much is known about the history of bonsai trees during this time period, but paintings from that era reveal some history book on bonsai that were decorated with wooden toys and flowers.

What influenced the bonsai in Japan?

The history of history of bonsai in Japan was influenced by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Shintoism during this time period.

The history book on history of bonsai in Japan is also documented through Japanese history books such as Kaigetsudo Meigi Zu. Kaigetsudo Meigi Zu account of the history of bonsai that was written as an account of the author’s visits to famous workshops and collections during this time period.

One of the popular bonsai trees is the Japanese maple bonsai.

 History of bonsai in the West

During the history of bonsai throughout the 20th centuries, bonsais trees waereheavily influenced by Japanese artisans.

Bonsais history began to draw more attention from Western historians and enthusiasts as traveling exhibitions became more common.

One of these travel exhibits included samples originating from Shofu-En and Tokyo University’s History history history history history history history of bonsai Museum.

The history of the bonsai influenced through travel exhibitions

In San Francisco, this exhibition was sponsored by the pre-eminent bonsais history club of the day, the Golden Gate Annual Bonsai Exhibition . This traveling exhibit drew enormous crowds and helped introduce a wider audience to art and history history history history history in general.

The Golden Gate Annual Bonsai Exhibition was held on November 14, 1979 through January 1980. The exhibition showcased one hundred fifty trees owned by members of the Western Society of Bonsai.

This club had previously sponsored an annual exhibition since 1975 and this was their first international exhibit. The organization was founded in Santa Cruz, California.

Other exhibitions that have been instrumental in popularizing bonsai around the world are: Tokyo Kokusai Bonsai Kaigi (Tokyo International Bonsai Exhibition) and SBCB (Sofia International Bonsai Biennale). For many years, these exhibitions were the only ones of their kind.

 More exhibitions flourished

Since these exhibitions, there have been many more, including: Bonsai Europa (Brussels), Bonsai Taipei (Taipei), and JapBonsai(Nagoya) . These events give artists from all over the world a chance to display their works.


The bonsai tree has an interesting history. It originated in China, spread to Japan and then into the west through trade routes.

Today it is popular as a decorative plant that serves many purposes beyond being just ornamental.

If you’re interested in learning more about this beautiful tradition we invite you subscribe to our newsletter for future tips on how to care for your bonsai or when we have new blog posts coming out!

About the author 

Greg Reed

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