The secrets and symbolism of Bonsai

Posted by:Maryann Lemon in Horticulture

The miniature form of a Bonsai tree seems to have a mystic pull on people. Legend has that Bonsai originated in the Han Dynasty around 220 AD with an emperor who created a garden replicating his empire in miniature with realistic hills, lakes and trees. He was so jealous of his designs he decreed death to anyone who tried to copy them. Nevertheless his secrets spread and Bonsai is now practiced widely.

On Saturday, August 12 from 10am-12pm, Bonsai expert Jason Moorehead will present a free seminar at Miami Beach Botanical Garden providing insights into the practice and symbolism of Bonsai.  Jason has been working in Bonsai for more than 20 years and runs a shop in Hollywood with his aunt and business partner, Nandi.  He will offer his creations for sale at the Garden.

More than 130 people have already registered for the seminar and we invite you to come along. In the meantime, read on for an interview with Jason about his work and how the principals of Bonsai have inspired and influenced his life. 

What does a Bonsai tree symbolize?

Bonsai is a Japanese word which literally translates to ”tree planted in a pot”.  However, the meaning of Bonsai is much more than that.  When Japanese monks made pilgrimages to China they brought these miniature potted trees back to Japan as gifts, and it evolved from there. Bonsai was the ideal art for Japanese culture, reflecting reverence for beauty and nature.  There are three different words for beauty in Japanese:  Shizen no utsukushi-sa, or  beauty found in nature, free of  man’s influence.  Hito ni yotte tsukura reta utsukushi-sa is beauty created by man such as a painting or architecture.  Finally, Shizen is defined as “man interacting with nature,” emphasizing respect for the natural world.  It signifies the harmony between man and nature.  This is the beauty found in Bonsai.

What does Bonsai symbolize in your own life?

I had two customers ask me this week about the symbolism of Bonsai. For me Bonsai has multiple meanings. First it represents experiences I’ve had in business as Best Bonsai Inc, with co-owner Nandi. Secondly, events in my life can often be represented by lessons found in various Bonsai techniques.  I remember my mother always being very interested in Eastern culture.  When I was 11 years old I learned about the art from her.
Traditional Bonsai symbolism has certain fundamental concepts and lessons, of patience, balance, and harmony. These are recurring themes throughout my adult life and spiritual evolution as a human being.  Looking back to my youth, I remember my mom working hard.  Being a small business owner often means working much harder than if you worked for someone else.  I remember seeing her asleep at her office computer, working 14 hour days six days a week at times.  I see this drive in myself.

When I see the path of my life unfolding to acheive so many of my desires, I can’t help but feel she is watching over me.  My Aunt and business partner Nandi helps make this possible.  Although her and my mother never met I can only imagine how well they would have gotten along.  I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for her support and guidance.

To learn more about the art of Bonsai, please come along to our free seminar at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, Saturday August 12, from 10am-12pm.

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