These trees were known as penjing, a Chinese term meaning”tray scene,” or penzai,”tray plant”
In China, Zen Buddhists prized these dwarfed trees, which have been found in the wild and full of knots and twists. Of no practical value, they have been thought of as full of natural energy because of their uncultivated nature. Later, as the prevalence of the art spread, techniques were developed to cultivate dwarfed trees to be able to fulfill demand that exceeded the availability of wild specimens.
Bonsai, a Japanese pronunciation of penzai, highlighted a single ideal tree as opposed to emulating a natural landscape. From the 14th century, the word for all these potted trees was hachi-no-ki,”tree in a bowl,” suggesting that at this moment, the trees had been planted in deep strands of Chinese style. Bonsai as a term became popular in the 17th century, when clinics shifted to utilize shallow Japanese-style trays to cultivate bonsai; the method favored now.
The Chinese tree-sculpting techniques expanded to include an assortment of practices and tools designed to create an illusion of age and wildness from the cultivated trees. These included special pruning techniques that produce natural-seeming branch breaks and openings as opposed to artificial stumps, wiring and pruning to form branches, and a suite of bark-removal procedures that produce dead wood, to be able to simulate the look of trees which were damaged by fire, struck by lightning, or otherwise exposed to natural hardships in their lifetime. Development of these techniques continues into the modern day.