Bonsai history project

Lollybonsai

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Hi everybody! I have been here for quite a while but never thought of anything to post.
I'm doing my final history project on the history of bonsai and I need some information from the bonsai-est people I've heard of. (I Don't think I've meet any of you in person)
Anyway, I've read the history of bonsai on bonsai empire and gotten a general overview.I wanted to know if you guys know something other people don't!

Hope for your replies!

Lollybonsai!
 

Lollybonsai

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welp, I'll get this started with a general overview. Bonsai originally came from china about 2,300 years ago. the characters look like this 盆栽。 It's first appearance was on tomb artwork where people were taking care of little trees in pots! The earliest ones were harvested from the wild, like Yamadori (correct me if I'm wrong about any of this.;))
 

Shibui

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I saw some references to even earlier potted trees carried by travelling herbalists because they needed access to fresh medicinal leaves. While not strictly bonsai as we know it, herbalists from India could have been the very earliest to cultivate trees in pots and introduced the practice into China.
 

Darkjellyfish

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Thought I’d add something unique to my country as this topic should be easily researched in wikipedia.

In Thai history, since late Ayutthaya kingdom period (around 18th century), we have had “styled tree” similar to bonsai. They likely are influenced by our trade with China, and are mostly practiced by the nobles. These styled trees are used to decorate palaces and temples.

example of styled tree
 

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Godschick

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Small Fact: From what I understand religion had a part historically, specifically Buddhism. When the actual art moved from the Chinese to Japan, it shifted from an elitist/royalty practice to more spiritual. The Zen Buddhist monks played a big role. I think Chan Buddhism and Daoism merged and Zen Buddhism was born. Zen monks started practicing tray landscapes which represented the universe. So the practice actually became more simplified by the Monks and more for the common people and shifted to a more spiritual meaning. Of course there is much more than that but that’s a small piece the spiritual history of bonsai.
 

Mike Corazzi

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It started when the first aphids prayed to the Aphid God for something to eat.

No? ................................................... :rolleyes:
 

Lollybonsai

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Small Fact: From what I understand religion had a part historically, specifically Buddhism. When the actual art moved from the Chinese to Japan, it shifted from an elitist/royalty practice to more spiritual. The Zen Buddhist monks played a big role. I think Chan Buddhism and Daoism merged and Zen Buddhism was born. Zen monks started practicing tray landscapes which represented the universe. So the practice actually became more simplified by the Monks and more for the common people and shifted to a more spiritual meaning. Of course there is much more than that but that’s a small piece the spiritual history of bonsai.
This is really interesting. This is great for me! Thanks!
 

Lollybonsai

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I saw some references to even earlier potted trees carried by travelling herbalists because they needed access to fresh medicinal leaves. While not strictly bonsai as we know it, herbalists from India could have been the very earliest to cultivate trees in pots and introduced the practice into China.
That's neat! What time period was this? It still amazes me how similar we are to people from thousands of years ago!
 

Lollybonsai

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Thought I’d add something unique to my country as this topic should be easily researched in wikipedia.

In Thai history, since late Ayutthaya kingdom period (around 18th century), we have had “styled tree” similar to bonsai. They likely are influenced by our trade with China, and are mostly practiced by the nobles. These styled trees are used to decorate palaces and temples.

example of styled tree
That's so cool. It's neat how people can spend cultures through just buying things from each other! (that tree is awesome BTW)
 

rockm

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FWIW, the history of bonsai has several sections. The initial part, which you describe, is only a small part of the picture. Bonsai has come a very very long way in the west and even in Japan since the early 20th century. The advent of copper wire and steel tools revolutionized bonsai in Japan at that time and allowed more artistic license and creativity for artists. Can't overstate that. It was a new ballgame post 1900.

In the west, particularly in the U.S. bonsai has a very interesting and dynamic history.


Issei and Nisei immigrant artists, U.S. servicemen returning from war after WW2, some bonsai "Johnny Appleseed" types like John Naka, Yuji Yoshimura and others kept interest growing in the U.S. in the 1960's-90's, Since then, Japanese-trained experts like Bill Valavanis, Chase Rosade, Kathy Shaner, Roy Nagatoshi, Ben Oki, Ryan Neal and Bjorn Bjorholm and other have taken up the banner...
 

Lollybonsai

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FWIW, the history of bonsai has several sections. The initial part, which you describe, is only a small part of the picture. Bonsai has come a very very long way in the west and even in Japan since the early 20th century. The advent of copper wire and steel tools revolutionized bonsai in Japan at that time and allowed more artistic license and creativity for artists. Can't overstate that. It was a new ballgame post 1900.

In the west, particularly in the U.S. bonsai has a very interesting and dynamic history.


Issei and Nisei immigrant artists, U.S. servicemen returning from war after WW2, some bonsai "Johnny Appleseed" types like John Naka, Yuji Yoshimura and others kept interest growing in the U.S. in the 1960's-90's, Since then, Japanese-trained experts like Bill Valavanis, Chase Rosade, Kathy Shaner, Roy Nagatoshi, Ben Oki, Ryan Neal and Bjorn Bjorholm and other have taken up the banner...
(is it weird that I read during my lunch?) This is really fascinating. It is so cool how big some forms of art are. I have heard mentions of bonsai not being as creative or "good" (by modern standards) because of lack of wire and other resources.
 

rockm

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(is it weird that I read during my lunch?) This is really fascinating. It is so cool how big some forms of art are. I have heard mentions of bonsai not being as creative or "good" (by modern standards) because of lack of wire and other resources.
A search of trees begun before the turn of the last century will show a lot of things that don't conform to "modern" ideas of bonsai. It's not that modern bonsai are "better," just that bonsai begun in the 20th century (And many before being restyled) using modern tools and techniques are very different from the old bonsai that preceded them.

When bonsai began, trees were mostly taken from the mountains and plunked into containers with little artistic adjustment. That changed over time, as owners tried to shape them a bit. Wire and easily available metal tools allowed that, replacing string and rocks and other make-do, less effective and precise ways of bending and shaping trunks and branches. IN the 1920's Masakuni began manufacturing the first bonsai-specific steel tools.

Bonsai used to be the province of the rich and noble class and sometime forbidden for 'commoners' to own, much less have metal tools to work on them with. Metal wire was not easily available until after the industrial revolution (which Japan lagged behind) as it remained mostly closed to the west until the late 19th-early 20th century.

This pine, the Yamaki pine at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in D.C, is an example. It began its life as a bonsai 400 years ago. If you look at its structure, it is mostly a barrel trunk with branches coming off of it. Very little "movement" in the huge trunk.

The hinoki cypress at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard in Boston are among the first bonsai ever imported into the U.S. in 1937. They were over 100 years old when they came here in 1937. They retain much of their original design.

There are other examples. Many older bonsai have been redesigned in the last century though. Also, the term "bonsai" also came into general usage during the same period, replacing "hachiue." Hachiue had more connotation as a simple "potted plant," while "bonsai" connotes a tree in a tray--esoteric change, but shows trees in trays had more meaning and regard than other plain old potted plants.
 
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Lollybonsai

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A search of trees begun before the turn of the last century will show a lot of things that don't conform to "modern" ideas of bonsai. It's not that modern bonsai are "better," just that bonsai begun in the 20th century (And many before being restyled) using modern tools and techniques are very different from the old bonsai that preceded them.

When bonsai began, trees were mostly taken from the mountains and plunked into containers with little artistic adjustment. That changed over time, as owners tried to shape them a bit. Wire and easily available metal tools allowed that. Bonsai used to be the province of the rich and noble class and sometime forbidden for 'commoners' to own, much less have metal tools to work on them with. Metal wire was not easily available until after the industrial revolution (which Japan lagged behind) as it remained mostly closed to the west until the late 19th-early 20th century.

This pine, the Yamaki pine at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in D.C, is an example. It began its life as a bonsai 400 years ago. If you look at its structure, it is mostly a barrel trunk with branches coming off of it. Very little "movement" in the huge trunk.

The hinoki cypress at the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard in Boston are among the first bonsai ever imported into the U.S. in 1937. They were over 100 years old when they came here in 1937. They retain much of their original design.

There are other examples. Many older bonsai have been redesigned in the last century though.
I see. Would you call them yamadori though? I have actually seen the Yamaki pine as it is about a 30min drive from my house. I was surprised how good it looks considering it has no curve or taper. Never heard of the other one though.
 

rockm

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I see. Would you call them yamadori though? I have actually seen the Yamaki pine as it is about a 30min drive from my house. I was surprised how good it looks considering it has no curve or taper. Never heard of the other one though.
They weren't called yamadori 300 years ago. They were simply interesting trees gathered in the mountains that had an inherent 'something' that spoke to the person who dug them up.

I live 30 minutes south of the Museum myself. I didn't say the tree is inferior, doesn't look as good, etc. You've mistaken my meaning. What I said is it is alot DIFFERENT than more modern bonsai if you look. It is a chunk of a trunk with pretty straight branching, without the visual 'movement' in more modern trunks and branches on bonsai pines...
 

rockm

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The WW2 year in the U.S. are of particular note for any history of bonsai here. The Pacific Bonsai Museum has several programs and resources to look at concerning bonsai and the Japanese Internment camps. That experience had an impact on bonsai also.

 

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