|Classical Japanese Bonsai Paintings|
For the more serious gardener, it is possible to grow bonsai from seeds, cuttings, a branch while it is still on a living tree or even prune and adapt a tree from a garden center. But these are long and laborious processes, taking several years before you have any kind of 'finished product'. Indeed some of the most prized bonsai have been around a lot longer than their owners. Some enthusiasts go to great expense to buy bonsai from dealers but if you just want to dabble or test the waters, it is possible to start off with a good guide book and a domestic plant (cheaper than imports) from a hobby or gardening shop for just a few thousand yen. I watched a program on TV last night where bonsai amateurs had to guess the values of various high-quality specimens. The most expensive looked similar to the one in the photo above and was valued at over 5.5 million yen (almost 50,000 dollars!). Special qualities that made that particular specimen so valuable included the unusual (for the species) thickness of its trunk and branches and its old age.
In Japanese, bonsai can be literally translated as "tray planting", but since originating in Asia so many centuries ago - it has developed into a whole new form. Called penjing by the Chinese, bonsai was believed to have had its start in the Han Dynasty. In this essay I will discuss some of the legends and facts surrounding the beginning of bonsai. One of the earliest Chinese legends contends that it was in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) that an emperor created a landscape in his courtyard complete with hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and trees that represented his entire empire. He created the landscape so that he could gaze upon his entire empire from his palace window. This landscape form of art was also his alone to posess. It was said that anyone else found in possession of even a miniature landscape was seen as a threat to his empire and put to death.
Bonsai comes to Japan