history and art
Bonsai can be found as far back in history
as the Chinese legends of the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220),
where the power of miniature landscapes with trees is
Written records from the third and fourth
centuries also describe trees planted in containers. Stories of
trees in pots are even more evident during the Tang dynasty (AD
Bonsai is closely
related to the principles of Zen Buddhism, which influenced the
art of bonsai as practiced in Japan for almost a thousand
years. Bonsai found its favour with gentry - rich merchants
with time on their hands. Maintaining a bonsai garden was then,
as now, a peaceful and time-consuming hobby.
There is some uncertainty about when bonsai
reached Japan. Kan Yashiroda, a bonsai master and author,
believes he has found evidence of bonsai in a scroll called
Kasugagongen-genki, dating from the Kamakura period
The first Japanese bonsai association
The Nippon Bonsai Association was
established in 1934 by professional bonsai artists and bonsai
Over time, the art of bonsai has developed into a practice
enjoyed all over the world. During the Second World War,
soldiers brought bonsai to the West, and today most Western
countries have national federations and clubs. Bonsai has
spread its peace to the African continent, Europe, Australia,
South and North America.
Shohin-bonsai has a shorter history. In
Japan, it dates back to the Edo period (1603-1867). The All Japan
Shohin-Bonsai Association was founded in 1968. There are about
68 chapters in Japan today, and recently a Mame-Bonsai
association was founded as well.
Every January, the All Japan Shohin Bonsai
Association sponsors the Gafu-ten, Elegant Wind Exhibition in
Kyoto. The first Gafu-ten was held in 1975. Other smaller
Shohin and Mame-exhibitions are held throughout the country.
Shohin-bonsai has also found its way to the
largest and oldest continuing Japanese exhibition, the Kokufu-ten,
held every February and arranged by the Nippon Bonsai
Association. This exhibition has taken place since 1934,
pausing only for World War II.