Juniper Bonsai Meaning and Symbolism
The art of bonsai has its roots in ancient China, where the elite practiced penjing as they had the time and money to create miniature trees and create landscapes. The art form spread to Japan, ostensibly by Buddhist monks attempting to bring the outdoors into their temples. This art gained its modern name In Japan.
The term bonsai means planted in a pot or container. As with many art forms that came from the East, bonsai is awash with symbolism. It’s a complex combination of art and horticulture in an effort to convey emotion. The Juniper family of plants allows the bonsai artist to express these emotions as they can encourage the plant into the desired shape.
Today, we’ll look at the Juniper bonsai meaning and symbolism as seen across several cultures.
The Meaning and Symbolism of the Juniper Bonsai
The Juniper is a coniferous tree that is found in many parts of the world. It’s an evergreen and has long been a symbol for protection. In folklore, it wards off evil spirits and cleanses and purifies those near it. The tree produces small cones that are used in many healing rituals.
In bonsai circles, the Juniper represents one’s ability to overcome all that life throws at you. It is a living symbol of strength and power.
Here we look at some of the symbolism pertaining to the Juniper, where the bonsai master attempts to recreate the natural world in miniature.
The pruning that a bonsai tree receives gives the tree balance, and combined with other natural elements, such as rocks, the overall picture is one of balance.
Geometric shapes are balanced, and trees are often pruned in triangular shapes but rarely in perfect triangles. Bonsai is not about perfect triangles but rather the imperfect, with one leg longer than the others. This reflects the Japanese love of freedom, growth, and movement.
The Juniper tree is perfect for this type of pruning. It’s easy to grow, and the branches lend themselves to being trained.
Bonsai trees are an excellent symbol of simplicity, which is essential in Japanese culture. The tree is the focal point of a bonsai, so they are grown in plain bowls. This means that all attention is given to the tree and the picture it makes.
The Juniper family of plants is often used in bonsai as they are hardy and easy to manipulate to reflect the emotion the grower is trying to portray. Junipers are beautiful plants and, for the beginner, they are easy to use to reflect the simplicity and elegance of a bonsai.
For the bonsai master, they can be sculpted in fantastic shapes that are often combined with other natural elements to reflect simple lines.
Hand in hand with simplicity is harmony. The tree will be pruned to show the connections that exist in nature. The aim would be to have old and young sections together or rough with smooth.
Japanese culture is underpinned by the desire for harmonious balance in all things. The harmony found in the bonsai tree reflects the Japanese belief that lesser things have a more significant effect.
The Juniper family of plants reflects this love of harmony. The contrast of bright green leaves against brown branches is harmonious, while the rough texture of the trunk blends harmoniously with the smoother bark of the branches.
These trees are sculpted into forms that allow the overall picture presented by the bonsai to reflect harmony between rocks, earth, gravel, moss, and any other natural elements and the plants growing amongst them.
A bonsai tree reflects the ages that a human goes through in life. Each piece of the tree reflects a specific era in the life of a human. A circular trunk indicates that the tree is mature and has overcome the ravages that nature has thrown at it, whereas a smooth trunk shows the tree is immature and represents youth, while gnarled trunks and exposed roots show great age and wisdom.
The Juniper Tree, as it grows and develops, reflects all these aspects exceptionally well. In addition to the trunk changing, the leaves also undergo changes through the life of a Juniper. When the tree is young, it has needle-like leaves, and as it grows older, these become more scale-like, reflecting its age.
Shaping a tree is the basic tenet of creating a bonsai, and each specific shape has meaning. If a tree is shaped to be upright, then it means the tree is strong and tranquil, a curved trunk infers strength through change, a slanted trunk means stability though stressed, a trunk bent horizontally means strength through hardship, and a trunk that falls below the lip of the container indicates strength through challenges.
The Juniper is a tree that originated in the mountainous regions of Japan and is naturally seen in all these configurations. Creating them in a bonsai can be done if the correct species of Juniper is selected at the beginning. Careful wiring of the trunk will create a tree to match the symbolism that you are seeking.
Bonsai trees are artists’ creations and originate in Zen culture. They create a feeling of peace, and working with these trees is a great stress reliever.
This art form has symbolism deeply embedded at its core, and each detail creates a message that contributes to the whole. Roots, branches, trunks, rocks, and other details are essential for developing feelings of simplicity, balance, harmony, and age.
The Juniper family of trees lends itself to this art form, and whether in the hands of a beginner or a bonsai master, it can be choreographed to reflect the feelings and symbols for which the grower is searching. Beginners would do well to study the symbolism in bonsai, so they create a well-designed tree and overall picture.