What Does A Bonsai Tree Symbolize?: A Brief History

Bonsai is perhaps the oldest form of practicing horticulture, and its origin dates back to thousands of years ago. Ever since their invention, the bonsai tree has become a symbol of status, aristocracy, and love for nature worldwide. 

But what does a bonsai tree symbolize in real life? What is the meaning of different bonsai tree species? Well, most bonsai planters are unaware of it, including the bonsai enthusiast.  And it is easily understandable since each bonsai tree types have a different symbol and meaning. Also, the meanings will vary extensively depending on the bonsai species, their origin, and even from planters to planters of different localities. 

Hence, we will discuss the history, benefits, and bonsai tree meaning in a detailed manner. It will be useful for you to know the bonsai variations better and grow them with improved attractiveness. 

What Does A Bonsai Tree Symbolize

Bonsai Tree History 

The history of bonsai is almost a thousand years old. And what’s more surprising is that although Bonsai is famous as Japanese culture, it originated as a Chinese practice. 

Bonsai evolved from Penjing that refers to mimicking natural trees through artificial tree formation. Japan first learned about the Penjing culture when a few Buddhist students and royal personnel visited mainland China in the early 6th and 7th centuries. 

Buddhist monks later helped spread bonsai as they wished to bring outdoor nature into their indoor temples. From China, bonsai traveled to Korea and then spread into mainland Japan during the late 12th century. 

As Japanese people integrated bonsai into their life, Chinese and Korean people didn’t lag either. Their innovation of different clay pots has furthered the development of bonsai. However, slowly Japanese developed a unique bonsai culture, and their monopoly in the Bonsai market continued until World War II. The historians commented that almost all the bonsais seen in Europe and America before World War II broke out were entirely from Japan. 

However, many countries have now found their foothold in the bonsai market, and Japan no longer has the monopoly. 

The Top Benefits of Bonsai

Before we head on to the main discussion on what a bonsai tree means, describing the benefits of bonsai isn’t a bad idea. It is also crucial since most people consider bonsai an ornamental indoor plant and forget its other benefits. 

Health and wellness:

Bonsai, like all indoor plants, purifies the indoor air almost outstandingly. It soaks the pollutants and purifies the indoor air for the better well-being of humans. Also, it helps in maintaining indoor humidity even without a humidifier. Thus, you can get rid of dry skin, sore throats, and even asthma. Plus, interaction with your bonsai tree improves your mental health, which most people often ignore. It is a great relief for those who are going through stress in their life. 

Home improvement:

Now, this benefit of the bonsai tree is almost undeniable, and almost everyone knows about it as well. When you keep a bonsai tree on your premises, it truly uplifts the look of your home. Plus, it takes a tiny space, and so you can easily put it anywhere to beautify your home without worrying about the space. 

On top of it, bonsai can be a great gift item, especially for those who love nature. So, it helps you uplift your lifestyle both spiritually and socially. 

Personal development:

Growing a bonsai tree at home and regularly taking care of the tree brings several benefits to your life. You might not even be aware of these invaluable advantages. For instance, regular maintenance and care of bonsai help cultivate patience in you. It is inevitable since bonsai is a slow goring plant, and you learn to cope with its growth rate. Also, bonsai boosts the creativity in you as you play with its shapes and designs. 

Economic development:

Many people cultivate bonsai purely for commercial purposes. Hence, this bonsai benefit is pretty known to every one of us. And this is understandable since the average price of a bonsai can be around $100 or more with ease. 

Thus, you can earn some extra money by planting and caring bonsai at home without much issue. You can start anytime and learn the art of bonsai pretty quickly as well. 

 If you are looking for bonsai tree maintenance and care, Bonsai Topic has the best suggestions for you. 

Excellent recreation:

You may not believe but practicing bonsai is a great way of relieving stress and anxieties. Hence, bonsai plantation is regarded as among the top recreational activities in Japan. When you spend time shaping and designing the bonsai tree, it truly gives you immense pleasure, unlike anything. Plus, you will enjoy the admiration and praises from your close people, which soothes your heart with satisfaction and offers peace of mind. 

What Does A Bonsai Tree Symbolize?

The bonsai tree has several meanings and symbolization depending on the locality and types of the bonsai tree. Also, the bonsai tree meaning varies from one planter to another. In Japan, bonsai is considered a complex form of art to express emotion and communicate with others. 

Hence, different shapes and kinds of bonsai express different meanings. Plus, the aesthetics of bonsai further symbolize different emotions and stages of human life. Last but not least, as a bonsai artist, the planter also has self-symbolism for bonsais.

What Is The Meaning Of Bonsai Plant According To Its Types?

Bonsai’s meaning and symbolism vary extensively depending on its type. Hence, it is good to find the bonsai tree meaning and symbols of the popular bonsai species to understand them better. The following list of the popular bonsai species will help you in this cause. 

So, let’s dive deep into the bonsai symbolism. 


Cedar is a popular bonsai in Western and American society, and it symbolizes strength, vitality, and immortality. Cedar is a purifying herb and has been an important part of the Native American culture for centuries. 

Also, different cultures have associated cedar with healing power, strength, and the ability to protect people from bad omens. Also, cedar is an important medicinal plant as people use its bark and leaves for healing. The different meaning of cedar includes:

  • Immortality: Different western and Christian cultures associate cedar with Virgin Mary. Also, cedar is linked with immortality mainly because of its shape that truly points outright towards heaven. 
  • Strength and protection: Cedar is also meant to protect Native American culture mainly because of its medicinal capacity and healing power. Also, Lebanese culture links cedar with strength thanks to its unthinkable size and longevity. 
  • Generosity: Many Native Americans consider cedar a symbol of generosity as it continuously helps them with wood and medicinal facilities. 

Cherry blossom:

Cherry blossom is among the most popular flowering plants in Japan and Asia, thanks to its whitish-pink flowers. The delicate flower of cherry blossom has long been associated with Japanese culture and is an integral part of their life, including Korean and Chinese people. 

Also, the cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan, and every year millions of tourists meet during the viewing time of this beautiful flower. Plus, it has an elevated status and different symbolism in different Asian cultures. 

  • Mortality and renewal: Since cherry blossom has truly had a meaningful but shorter blooming season, it is linked with mortality. And as it rebirths every year with even more beauty and attractiveness, it also expresses renewal and rebirth of life. Chinese and Japanese monks link cherry blossom bonsai with mortality and rebirth for the same reasons. 
  • Human existence: Japanese people believe that cherry blossom symbolizes human existence through its short but meaningful rebirth every year with dazzling flowers. As it blooms every year to amaze people, so does the human. Thus, in Japanese culture, cherry blossom bonsai often refers to the human lifecycle. 
  • Feminine beauty and dominance: Cherry blossom is often associated with women’s beauty and dominance in Asian countries, thanks to its delicate flower. Chinese culture considers cherry blossom as the representation of female beauty and sexuality. Also, Korean considers it as the symbol of female dominance. 


Boxwood is a popular bonsai species due to its evergreen properties. Boxwood has long been associated directly with the Christian faith. The tree is found in abundance in Africa, Western Europe, and North America and has been an integral part of the culture in these localities. 

Many people use its leaves to build their shelter. But Roman people used its leaves to build tablets. It is also linked with immortality and human existence in most cultures. 

  • Immortality and longevity: Boxwood is a slow-growing yet long-living tree. Thus, most Western people link it with immortality and longevity. Plus, it also represents steadiness thanks to its slow yet assured growth. 


Azalea is perhaps the most beautiful-looking flower species used in bonsai plantations. Azalea is always connected with feminine characteristics due to its delicate flowers with attractive pink appearance. 

Also, it can be an excellent gift to devoted women to express love and affection towards them. Thus, it has different symbols and meanings.  The most common azalea bonsai tree meanings include:

  • Femininity and beauty: Azalea is a delicate and charming flower. Hence, it connects with the gentleness, vulnerability, and above all, beauty of females worldwide. It also represents female calmness and fertility. 
  • Affection and passion: Since azalea is an attractive and charming flower, it often represents love, affection, and passion. People will often gift it to express their deep love for someone and express the emotional outburst of humans. 
  • Fertility and abundance: People link it with fertility and abundance as azalea grows rapidly and blooms in numbers during the blossoming season. The abundance could be anything positive such as the wealth, intelligence, and wellness of humans. 

Chinese elm:

Although bonsai experts grow Chinese elm only a few inches long in their bonsai container, the tree can easily grow up to 80 feet in natural condition. It is native to Southeast Asia and symbolizes vastness and love as a bonsai. 

Also, its leafy appearance makes it a popular bonsai species across the globe. In this part of what a bonsai tree means, we will discuss the symbolization of the Chinese elm. 

  • Affection and love: As Chinese elm always has a green and leafy appearance, it connects with the love and affection of human life. Its love expresses calmness and steadiness, with longevity unmatched by anything else. 
  • Vastness: Chinese elm grows well over 80 feet in natural condition. Also, the entire tree is full of large leaves. Hence, many people link it with the vastness of nature. 
  • Harmony: Chinese elm is famous as the ‘tree of harmony’ in popular Chinese culture. Chinese believe that it expresses intuition, harmony, and wisdom. 

Japanese maple:

Japanese maple, undoubtedly, is among the most beautiful, attractive, and yearned bonsai species across the globe. The tree has nice foliage, and it varies from orange, yellow to red. In Japanese culture, the tree symbolizes different elements. It has been an integral part of poetry, literature, and art in Chinese and Japanese culture for thousands of years. 

  • Beauty: Japanese maple mostly has bright and vivid red foliage along with extended branches. Thus, it always links with beauty and vitality. 
  • Peace and harmony: Japanese maple is further connected with the steadiness, peace, harmony, and balance of life in many Southeast countries. The vividness of its foliage also expresses the vitality and wealth of human life. 


Thanks to its beautiful and charming shape and foliage, Ficus is probably the most widely seen indoor bonsai species. It is found worldwide and has several meanings in different cultures, mostly associated with unity, vastness, and abundance. 

  • Vastness and abundance: People associate Ficus with vastness and abundance in the Middle East mainly because of its large appearance and green foliage. 
  • Cheerfulness and vitality: Many people think that Ficus rejuvenates the human mind with its cheerfulness and vitality. Also, it boosts the human mind and brings peace. 


Juniper is among the most showcased and photographed bonsai species you will ever find. The tree is native to England and is famous for its coniferous nature. Since it is an evergreen plant and has long-lasting longevity, it bears different symbolisms in Western culture. 

  • Power and protection: Juniper has excellent healing power. So, it expresses protection in human life. Also, you will find people connecting it with the strength to showcase means of overcoming various life challenges. 
  • Purity and cleanliness: English and other Western people consider it as a form of purity. Plus, many believe that the tree has excellent cleaning ability. 


As the tree shape and size suggest, oak is always linked with vastness, longevity, and strength in Bonsai tree meaning and symbolism. And it is understandable since oak is among the largest growing and longest-living plants in the world. 

Many people choose oak as a bonsai species because it can endure continuous pruning and still offers a distinctive shape to blow everyone’s mind. Plus, its longevity means the tree is always linked with immortality and eternal life. 


This was our full and detailed discussion on what does a bonsai tree symbolizes. The symbolism of the bonsai tree differs from one species to another and from one location to another. In short, the bonsai tree meaning includes peace, harmony, immortality, and cheerfulness of life. 

When you choose any bonsai species, make sure you know its meanings and symbols. It will help you in shaping and designing the bonsai tree better. Plus, the price of bonsai trees varies hugely depending on their meaning in different countries. Thus, it is even more important for commercial bonsai planters to know the bonsai tree history and its meaning to make profits from their business.

Leave a Comment