Grow a Chinese bonsai tree!


Hi there!

Welcome to our page on the Chinese bonsai tree!

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for taking an interest in bonsai!

Growing and caring for bonsai really is a satisfying hobby........ Nothing like getting back to nature to soothe the soul!

So you're looking for information on a Chinese bonsai tree, or on the culture itself? Well, you have come to the right place!

Lets start with a 'did you know?'

Did you know that bonsai is in fact a Chinese practice? The word Bonsai is a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term penzai, which means 'tray plant'. The umbrella term in China is Penjing, meaning 'tray scenery'. The difference between the two terms is this.......... When you are talking about a tree, you would use the term penzai, when you are talking about the landscape it is a part of, you would use the term penjing. Pretty simple!!!!

The practice under these terms generally consists of growing trees or plants in small pots/containers, utilising skilled pruning to dwarf and form aesthetically pleasing shapes. This ancient art form eventually gave rise to Japan's interest in the art; the more popular term for the art becoming bonsai, as the rest of the world became interested.

So, let it be said that whilst Japan is often credited with the introduction of bonsai to the world, it was actually China that founded the art! Various historical influences led to this being so, such as the USA's Chinese Exclusion Act, which favoured the Japanese people and culture over the Chinese. Obviously, this led to bonsai being accepted as the art of tree dwarfing, leaving the Chinese creditless....... Well now you know different!

So, we hear you ask........ What is the difference between a Japanese and Chinese bonsai tree?

Nice question. Lets find out!

The main visual, or aesthetic differences between bonsai and penzai/penjing lay in the shapes. Bonsai adopt a more refined and controlled appearance, with proportionate trunks and neutral looking pots. Bonsai tends to keep branches short and controlled and the trees will adopt a very refined shape.

Penjing/penzai are generally cultivated to appear rugged and wild. Special attention is given to allowing branches to flourish outwards, giving the chinese bonsai tree the appearance of breaking free. More colourful and outlandish pots can be used, which can be fun, if you yourself, want to break free from the strict regime of bonsai! As our world continues to evolve, and cultures mingle, lines are becoming blurred between what is bonsai and what is penjing/penzai. Even the experts are often left confused.

We here at want to help you learn the difference......... Lets take a look at 2 great examples! See if you can make the distinction yourself!



How did you go?

Well, in the first photograph, you will notice the extended branches and the very rugged appearance. Yep, you guessed it! That is a chinese bonsai tree, a Penzai, from the art of Penjing. The second photograph brilliantly displays a very refined appearance, evident in the short branches, symmetrical foliage pads and a full, thick, proportionate trunk.

You may well be asking "What are the best species of tree to grow Penjing style?"..............

In the interest of keeping within our mission statement of keeping things simple, there are 3 species of tree that are easy to grow and well geared towards the art of penjing specifically. Little hint too - Growing a Penjing style tree can be easier than Japanese bonsai. Less attention goes into the trimming back of branches!

Our picks for the Penjing style of chinese bonsai tree are:




Our Care guide 1, 2 and 'How To' Guide will give you all the knowledge you need to grow a traditional Penjing Chinese bonsai tree!

What are you waiting for?

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