The history of bonsai goes back countless ages, with the first evidence of small potted trees showing up in Egyptian tombs over 2000 years ago. Records show Indian herbalists keeping prized plants dwarfed in containers to increase their mobility 1500 years back. But bonsai as we know it shows up in Chinese history around 700AD in the Tang dynasty (again in tomb paintings). This was also a period of great cultural learning for the Japanese, who sent emissaries to China and were borrowing much of its culture, especially the arts.
The Chinese pen tsai (pot tree) became the Japanese bon sai (sametranslation). During the 14th century, as east-west trade became established there was a brief interest in miniature trees, which rekindled again in the 17th century when Japan again opened to trade. But the reports of the time refer to â€œoriental magicsâ€ that western collectors were blaming for the demise of their trees, and the thread broke off again.
It wasnâ€™t until Japan exhibited at the 1878 World Exhibition in Paris that bonsai resurfaced on the international stage, along with a clearer knowledge of the process. Today bonsai is a world wide art form with clubs in nearly every country on the globe.