Bonsai was introduced to Japan during the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333) by means of Zen Buddhism and is something to be enjoyed all over the world today. The philosophy of bonsai has changed through the years because of the different cultures who adopted this artform around the world. Bonsai artists gradually looked into introducing other culturally important elements in their bonsai plantings such as rocks, supplementary and accent plants, and even small buildings and people. To the Japanese, bonsai represents a fusion of strong ancient beliefs with the philosophies of the harmony between man, the soul and nature.
The Japanese use traditional native bonsai plants such as pine, azaleas, and maple to grow in their own little containers, separate from the earth but still part of nature. This is what is meant by the expression "heaven and earth in one place."
A bonsai tree should always be positioned off-center in its container, for not only for its asymmetry, but the center point is symbolically where heaven and earth meet. Another aesthetic principle is the triangular pattern necessary for visual balance and for expression of the relationship shared by the universe, the artist, and the tree. Tradition holds that three basic virtues are necessary to create a bonsai: shin-zen-bi standing for truth, goodness and beauty.
"To appreciate and find pleasure in curiously curved potted trees is to love deformity." I enjoyed learning about these special little plants at the botanical gardens in Huntsville and I liked the bonsai that has roots that looks like a hand with a big, puffy sleeve of leaves!