History in a nutshell
The more than a thousand years old bonsai tradition is based on the Chinese art form 'penzai'. The characters with which the Chinese word 'penzai' is written are pronounced in Japanese as 'bonsai'. From the 14th century, miniature trees in pots were called hachi no ki, Japanese for 'trees in a bowl'. Centuries ago the trees were made from seedlings and kept through the years from one generation to the next. In those days it was considered as an honour to maintain the tree.
Until the late 18th century, the Japanese imported most pots for miniature trees from China. Pots made between 1465 and circa 1800 were called kowatari 'old cross'.
At the end of the 18th century, the traditional cultivation of miniature trees was known in almost all of Japan. The wider public also became interested in the art form. Bonsai from China and Japan appeared for the first in Europe at an exhibition in Paris at the end of the 19th century. In Osaka the first world Bonsai convention was held during the World Bonsai and Suiseki Exhibition in 1980
What defines the quality of a tree?
What is more beautiful than an old majestic tree in the wild? Beauty is very subjective so everyone will have his own opinion of the beauty of a tree. But of course there are certain standards which define the quality of a Bonsai.
One of the most important features is the setting of the root base (nebari) and a thick conical shaped trunk (depending on the style of the tree). Also an older tree will look much more impressive than a young and frail tree. That's why Jins and Shari's make a tree look much older and accentuate the wear and tear by time, as in real nature.
Then there is the setting of the branches which is a very important element that defines the quality of the tree. These often need to be shaped downwards by wiring so that they give the impression they are full size branches that carry much more weight as in real nature.
To finish it off, it is also important to use a suitable pot, just like a nice frame of a painting. Not only must it be suitable for the further quality of life of the tree, it should also give it an aesthetic added value.