Bonsais, the Miniatures From the World of Man
This millenary art creates attainable worlds by reproducing landscapes and forms inscribed in nature.
The bonsai is a practice that imitates the forms of nature, transforming them into small landscapes; it is also an expression of the love we feel for miniaturization and the human urge to shape nature.
The art of bonsai was born in Imperial China, deriving from ancient horticultural practices. The first records date back to the 8th century AD, although it is generally believed to be far more ancient. Back then, they were called pun-sai, which means “a platter to sow in”, and they were made by the upper classes, often presented as gifts. In modern China they are known as pen-jing, “a landscape platter”.
During the Kamakura period (12th and 13th centuries), Japan adopted many Chinese cultural and social traits, among them this art, which was developed according to the principles of Zen Buddhism and suggested that a single tree, planted in a pot, can represent the entire universe. The pots that were used in Japan were deeper; which led this kind of gardening to be known as hachi-no-ki, “teacup tree”.
Bonsais are dwarf trees, less than a meter tall and are planted in flat pots. This procedure can be applied to any plant with a wood-like stem or trunk. They are classified and named in two manners: size and shape.
The technique used to grow these small trees includes elimination and selection of the shoots, mowing them constantly, placing wire around branches (molding the growth of the tree), fertilizing them according to a specific scheme and, finally, controlled temperature and sun exposure.
Bonsai is a miniature representation of reality, a mystical object that implies the creation of small living landscapes, capable of existing within a home or a closed, small space. Its peculiar and crooked shapes, which sometimes imitate mountains or rocky slopes, create tiny fantasy worlds which are a reminder of our love of miniatures, but, better yet, they are a beautiful example of the human obsession to shape and control the uncontrollable, nature.
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