The art form is believed to have started in China and refined in Japan. The word Bonsai and Penjing have exactly the same characters in Japanese and Chinese respectively. They were trees and plants that had been collected from the wild that were naturally stunted and arranged in ceramic pots and containers and kept in the collector’s homes. They were regarded as natural living works of art.
Penjing covers many different styles from trees in pots, rock plantings, and landscapes. it was believed to have originated 1,500 to 2,000 years ago. In Japan there is documentation indicating 1,200 years ago.
During the Chin dynasty 221-206 BC, China and Japan engaged in spiritual and social contact driven by the introduction of Buddhism from Korea. The development continued to be refined with Japan particularly evolving it into an art form.
Bonsai arrived in the west in London in 1901 as part of the Crystal Palace exhibition, with Windsor Castle boasting a collection as early as 1907.