Bonsai Plant Meaning: Unveiling Its Spiritual Symbolism

History of Bonsai

A remarkable blend of art and nature, Bonsai is a tradition steeped in history, culture and even religion. More than just a specialist gardening practice of shaping and growing miniature trees, Bonsai dates back to antiquity.

Its translation from Japanese is two part, bon meaning tray or pot and sai meaning plant or tree. Curiously, its origins aren’t even Japanese.

Bonsai originate in Ancient China. Around 4 BCE, explorers of the Chinese mountains witnessed miniature trees growing in the highest of altitudes. Taoists of the time were spellbound by these dwarf trees surviving the most intense of climates.

Inspired Taoists believed miniature recreations of this incredible nature could bring its powerful qualities to the person growing them. From this, Penjing, the recreation of wild landscapes in miniature potted form, was born.

In the centuries that followed, Japan’s first encounters with Penjing would sow the seeds of Bonsai. Across the 6th to 8th centuries, Japanese envoys made up of aristocrats and Buddhist monks would travel to the Chinese capital returning with Penjing as souvenirs.

Bonsai would move away from potted landscapes and bring its focus to individual potted trees. Moreover, the art of Bonsai would further develop the shaping and development of the trees shape with the use of wire and bamboo.

Symbolism of Bonsai

When initially introduced to Ancient China and later medieval Japan, Bonsai trees were a status symbol. These miniature potted plants were coveted and held by the elites of society at the time.

Since antiquity Bonsai trees have been held in the highest regard. According to Zen Buddhism, Bonsai are to be maintained as a matter of contemplation and meditation. Others believe Bonsai bring desirable qualities to a home or garden such as elegance, beauty, harmony and serenity.

Bonsai trees are small but strong, they are modest yet beautiful and they ask considerable patience to maintain and flourish. Most significantly, growing Bonsai offers a rare and perfect melding of nature and art. This is seen and experienced by many as symbolic of the life long journey to find inner peace.

The Meaning of a Bonsai Tree

These living works of art are considered to hold profound significance and special meaning. Though this is not a simple case of plonking another plant in your garden patch or on your window sill.

So significant are the meanings behind Bonsai, they’ve long made for a thoughtful gift for your loved ones and friends. When picking a Bonsai tree as a gift for others or yourself, it’s important to understand different species hold different qualities of life and nature:

Ficus Bonsai

Are relatives to the Fig Tree and are believed to bring health, fertility and love. It’s association with the Fig Tree means the health it brings is both physical and spiritual.

Chinese Elm Bonsai

Are considered a tree of harmony bringing a peaceful energy. The symbolism of this beautiful Bonsai is intuition, inner strength, wisdom and love.

Fukien Tea Bonsai Tree

Are also known as Carmona Microphylla. These stunning Bonsai trees embody heart and courage, love and devotion.

Jade Bonsai Tree

Is also known as the Money Tree. It should come as no surprise that these charming little trees symbolise prosperity and good luck.

Japanese Pepper Bonsai Tree

Are known by some as Zanthoxylum Bonsai. These trees promise a vibrant foliage and a crisp, refreshing aroma. This fragrant species symbolise protection, healing and purification.

Chinese Sweet Plum Bonsai Tree

Are fruiting species, also known as Sageretia Bonsai. Perhaps the perfect gift for a couple with a new born, these trees symbolise creativity, new life, protection and warm wishes.

Serissa Bonsai Tree

Are also known as The Tree of a Thousand Stars for its splendid star shaped white flowers. These cheerful trees symbolise good luck, wellbeing and hope.

Rose Apple Bonsai

Also known as Syzygium Buxifolium are fruiting species, native to South Africa. Potentially a beautiful wedding gift, these plants symbolise good fortune, love, long life and joyful living.

Bonsais have unique characteristics and meaning across over 100 species. You’ll have to forgive us for not listing them all. Whether you’re seeking nature, art, spirituality, beautiful gifts or all of the above: there is a Bonsai perfect for you.

Spiritual Meaning – Growing the Plant, Growing the Heart

Heartfelt and endearing gifts for many, decorative ornaments for some – the meaning of Bonsai ultimately comes from the relationship and cultivating of the plant. Growing and caring for Bonsai is an endeavour over time that can span decades. After all, the world’s oldest bonsai stands in the Crespi Bonsai Museum in Milan over 1000 years old!

Master Bonsai growers have made the comparison of raising children to the growing of Bonsai. Mainly in the beautiful, spiritual way and less in the sleepless nights and emptied wallet way…

Much like the raising of a child, the start of growing bonsai is all about ensuring survival and keeping a watchful eye on the plant. This is soon followed by careful grooming and pruning to ensure the plant is in the best shape for its days and growth ahead.

Again like raising a child, over invested time and routines of care, one soon witnesses growth and individual character comes through. The more time invested, understanding and responding to needs becomes natural as does the ability to overcome challenges.

Some Bonsai species are more care intensive than others. Some will require less input and human intervention, much like a developing child. This being said, Master Bonsai growers speak of a task requiring unconditional faith and unwavering commitment… Any parents relate to that?

Your Bonsai, Your Meaning

So what is the definitive meaning of Bonsai? This is entirely down to the person purchasing or caring for the plant. Want to explore an artistic side of careful input and mastery? Bonsai can offer that.

Want a more developed and considered relationship with nature? Bonsai can offer that. Want to celebrate the arrival of a new born or a marriage? Bonsai can offer that.

Want a meditative practice to return to and return to, day after day? Bonsai can offer that. Whether wishing to bring luck, prosperity, love or serenity into life or perhaps just an elegant art work on a window sill. Bonsai can offer that.

Bonsai meaning ranges from symbolic and culturally significant to a great housewarming gift. We have an array of beautiful and artistic trees here at Miyagi Bonsai today, so what are you waiting for?

What Bonsai Means to Us 

We at Miyagi Bonsai started our horticultural journey some 26 years ago… with a Bonsai no less. As keen gardeners, our first Bonsai purchase was a gift for friend of the business who’d just bought a home.

We always liked these miniature marvels and soon purchased one for ourselves. Between London’s metropolis and finite indoor space, Bonsai proved the perfect way to bring natural beauty and harmony into our home.

In our experience Bonsai trees bring relaxation and balance to any home. Far beyond interior decoration, we’ve found these marvels of Japanese zen bring good luck and radiate health.