Zen Bonsai... More than just art? You be the judge!

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You need to experience Zen Bonsai......

Zen and Bonsai go hand in hand.

Any artist will tell you that there is a much deeper meaning within the art of bonsai than just simply styling and dwarfing trees.

From religions like Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, Bonsai is laden with cultural and spiritual significance.

If you enjoy a spiritual aspect to your life, or are looking for one, bonsai is for you! Eastern philosophy has a large component of nature and of being 'one' with it.

Balance and power are considered strong elements of the human psyche and body, attributes that are present in all trees.

Nature is also considered to be a manifestation of the divine or of omnipotence, which carries into our art.

In bonsai, you mimic mother nature

Actually, you become Mother Nature. You have ultimate control of a tree, and are basically writing a poem, honouring nature within it; you can't help but feel a strong connection.

The art has the power to inspire, motivate and soothe the soul.

Who doesn't like to relax after a hard day at the office?

Bonsai rejuvenates and relaxes us!

Zen philosophies were originally taken to Japan in the 8th Century. It was here that Zen priests (great artists and scholars) further developed these concepts, including Bonsai which has 'roots' (excuse the pun) within Zen philosophy.

zen hut

Zen Bonsai, Wabi & Sabi

Wabi (trans: ‘poverty’)

In the Bonsai context, Wabi does not refer to ‘poverty’ in the context that it is most commonly associated with.

In the Bonsai context, Wabi refers to an individual’s lack of reliance on material possessions and simplicity in one's life.

Wabi then, surpasses material wealth, but places much emphasis on wealth of mind.

Zen bonsai utilises this concept, focusing on nature as wealth, found in working with a tree.

Sabi (trans: ‘loneliness’ or ‘solitude’)

In the Bonsai context, ‘Sabi’ refers to antiquity and an element of simplistic design, both primitive and devoid of modernism.

Sabi mainly comes into play in Zen Bonsai when considering pots and ‘antique’ trees. When considering Bonsai in an historical context, you must acknowledge that Bonsai is rooted (great pun!), in Zen philosophy. There are 7 Zen elements of Bonsai design.





Austere Sublimity

Freedom from Attachment

Subtle Profundity

So lets go through these Zen principles!


Simple is better!

Less is more!

It is easy to over-complicate Bonsai design with extravagant pots and weird curvatures. However tempted you might be, aim to keep your Bonsai simple.

In Zen philosophy, profound knowledge and thought is best expressed through simple terms.

In nature, particularly Bonsai, the most beautiful trees are often the simplest.


Bonsai is a tranquil art. Bonsai and Japanese art invoke feelings of peace and quiet, even in the middle of busy cities or hectic settings.


Avoid ‘artificialising’ your tree. Your Bonsai should be as natural as possible. Artificial looking trees that have been highly refined look silly and serve merely as ‘plastic’ plants.


The zen approach of asymmetry and imperfection is far removed from that of typical western society. Asymmetry is the most fundamental characteristic of Bonsai, creating both space and visual harmony between branches, pots and foliage.

Austere Sublimity

In creating beautiful works of Bonsai, it is inevitable that the artist’s personality and character will come across in it’s appearance. Much like canvas art, every twist and plant leaf will provide the audience with an insight into the artist’s soul.

Freedom of Attachment

Bonsai encompasses ideals around the shying away from societal conventions and breaking the mould. Asymmetry and imperfection of Bonsai trees attracts interest and awe, primarily because of their abnormal appearance.

Subtle Profundity

When you stare at a proud Bonsai, often you will experience feelings of mystery, spirituality, historical reflection or you will simply just appreciate it’s regal standing. The subtle appearance of its tiny branches and their twists and turns will subtly tell stories of it’s past. Meditate with your Bonsai!

Zen meditation concerns the discarding of unnecessary baggage and focusing on empty space in which to grow.

Sounds like a tree huh?

Practice your Zen Bonsai and achieve a more relaxed lifestyle! We recommend buying your trees (USA only) direct from Bonsai Boy New York!

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