Miniature gardens and trees developed in China over a thousand years ago, but it was only in Japan that the practice was applied to a single tree.

Here's what my friend, Dr. Tony Alario, an avid bonsai student and practicioner, says about this one:

"This tree is a particulary fine and dramatic example of an informal upright (myogi style) juniper (junpierus chinensis var. shimpaku) which displays both live (red-brown strips) and dead (white) areas. The live area is carefully isolated from the naturally (and often artificially) created dead wood, with the dead wood carved and treated with a perservative solution (usually lime sulphur) to enhance the overall effect of the artistic creation. The dead wood of the main line on the trunk is called 'shari' and the dead wood on the trunk apex and branches is called 'jin.'"

 

Perhaps the first mention of bonsai in Japan is in the records of the Kasuga Shrine in Nara, dating from the Kamakura period (1192-1333). But because it was associated with Buddhism it's possible that bonsai came to Japan as early as the 6th century when Buddhism first made its appearance.

 

The above images are courtesy of Yuichi Ueda, Allen Roffey of The Bonsai Primer. and Tomas Stanek of the Swedish Bonsai Society.

There are more bonsai web pages than for any other aspect of Japanese culture. Literally hundreds of pages, from commercial owners to associations, to personal home pages, they can be found in over two dozen countries on at least four continents. Here are three that have interesting and useful information, plus links to many more.

 

The American Bonsai Site is a comprehensive site, with many different sections for beginner and expert alike (including a stolen bonsai registry).

The Bonsai Gardener is a very good resource for beginners and experienced gardeners alike.

A gardener in Stoughten, Mass., has a catalogue of 15 beautiful bonsai images - all diffeent kinds.