Pedro Stumm

Cultivation of bonsai

The term bonsai, translated from the Japanese literally means a tree on a tray Bonsai specifically refers to the training and artistic view applied to the tree; indeed it will give the illusion of a grown-up tree in nature in miniature. Bonsai is definitely an art and requires practice and a good esthetic eye, but it is also an entertaining and rewarding art which truly can be enjoyed by anyone.
The bonsai first appeared in China, more than a thousand years ago. One of the oldest Chinese legends relates how in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) an emperor created a landscape in his backyard with hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and trees which represented his entire empire. He created the scenery in such a way that he could gaze upon his entire empire through the window of his palace. The oldest documented proof of the bonsai was discovered in 1972 in the tomb of Prince Zhang Huai, of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), who died in 706 AD. Two wall paintings discovered in the tomb show servants carrying plants which resemble the bonsai; in one a servant is seen carrying a landscape in miniature and in the other a servant appears carrying a tree in a pot.
The bonsai of China was presented to Japan during the period of Kamakura (1185-1333) by means of Zen Buddhism, which at that time was spreading quickly throughout Asia. The exact time is debatable, but it may have arrived in 1195 AD, as a reference to it appears on a roll of Japanese paper attributed to that period. With the passage of time, the bonsai was not limited to Buddhist monks and monasteries, but was also representative of the aristocracy, becoming a symbol of prestige and honor. In the 14th century the art of the bonsai began to be practiced by people of all the classes, and as a result the bonsai grew in popularity in Japan. After the bonsai had become established in Japan, the Japanese started to refine the art, which made the bonsai what it is today. For the Japanese, bonsai represents a merging of strong old convictions with the eastern philosophies of harmony between man, soul and nature.
With the exhibitions in London, Vienna and Paris, specially the International Exhibition of Paris in 1900, the art of the bonsai of China and Japan went to the west and called the world's attention. At the end of the Second World War the bonsai gained popularity in the west, since many soldiers came back home bringing a plant's sample. At this time the interest arose to learn more about the techniques of this art, in order to manage to keep the trees in miniature alive.
Making a bonsai is easy, provided that you follow some basic rules: patience, patience and more patience. There are some techniques which can be used to create a bonsai, including beginning with a seed or seedling, waiting for it to grow and then educating the plant as regards its development. Another way is to use a nursery plant, or one which has grown more or become older, pruning it structurally and reducing its size, maintaining its proportions. Yet another manner is to take a plant from nature, one which is old and has undergone several actions from nature. But always it is necessary to make a careful observation of the trees in nature and to use a good esthetic sense.