The history of bonsai begins in ancient China around 500 to 1,000 BC, approximately 2,500 years ago. The art form was initially known as “P’en Tsai,” in China, and in Japan it’s “Bonsai,” pronounced “bone-sigh.” It all began with the idea of placing trees into trays or pots and bringing a sense of nature indoors.
The art spread from China eastward to Korea, then finally Japan where it’s best known. Buddhist monks are responsible for much of the cultivation and popularity of the art of bonsai. The pots or trays that are involved in bonsai are as important as the trees themselves. In bonsai, the pot and the tree are as one.
Miniaturizing trees and other plants is both a science and an art form, where it is still believed by some that these miniature forms scaled down to size contain mystical or magical energies. Since World War II, most bonsai trees shipped to the United States and Europe originate from Japan.