Bonsai amateurs often think about the meaning of bonsai trees and ask what is hidden behind these trees. They try to guess or listen to some rumors, and many people think that bonsai is one of the Japanese cultural tradition. But let us consider the meaning of the word ‘bonsai’ first. From Japanese language it is translated like ‘a tree in a tray’, but the origin of this beautiful art goes back to ancient China. The art of growing tiny alive creatures in pots started about a thousand years ago.
There were myths and legends that say about strangely looking plants that people grew in the good old days and that those plants looked like mythical creatures – dragons, birds and snakes. The origin of these myths is in the Chinese mythology.
Later the meaning of the word and the notion in general has changed a lot and this form of art was adopted by Japanese people and improved by them very quickly. Buddhist monks brought this art to Japan and then these tiny plants were viewed like a emblem of harmony between nature and human beings. Since then the shapes of the bonsai plants have changed a lot too and the grotesque forms of serpents and dragons have vanished and now bonsai trees are about harmony, peace and balance between people and universe. Only good and no harm – that is the main idea of bonsai trees now.
The influence of Buddhist monks has never disappeared completely and it can be felt even now and even in the western countries. Talks about meditation state of mind and zen can be found in the books about bonsai growing and practice. In the guidebooks that were published in the western countries you can find the idea about meditative state that is absolutely necessary when you are growing your own bonsai tree and you must water, prune and trim your plant with a zen-like state of mind and soul. But during several decades the root meaning of the bonsai planting was lost almost completely and for general public bonsai trees are just beautiful alive creatures that can add some Asian charm to their homes and offices. They just like to feel this touch of East in their homes.
When you grow your own bonsai you learn a lot and know how your tree feels and discover that spiritual note that books describe. You will know that nature and the character of your bonsai tree and learn how to find the balance between your desires and possibilities of the tree. You will find much inside yourself while you are growing bonsai and you will like it. The process of growing a bonsai tree is exciting and tender.