The impulse to bring the outside in is centuries old, a fact that bonsai trees are testament to. Beginning in the first century A.D., the Chinese practice of penjing, “pot scenery,” replicated the natural world in realistic miniature. Enthusiasts believed that scaling down landscapes gave them access to nature’s powers, which they felt became more potent in the process. The horticultural technique of raising trees in small landscapes was first only indulged in by the elite using natively collected specimens. Ancient images from around 700 A.D. show the tiny universes being given as gifts. According to artistic depictions, the practice was adopted by the Japanese around the beginning of the 14th century. But the Japanese style focused only on trees instead of on full landscapes. In fact, “bonsai, ” the Japanese word for the craft, means “a tree This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-Seven Buy Now Related Stories Arts & Culture Issue 45 The Giving Tree A short history of tree hugging. Arts & Culture Issue 40 Object Matters A searching history of the crossword. Arts & Culture Issue 39 Shelf Life The rise and rise of design objects. Arts & Culture Garden Issue 37 Ron Finley An exclusive excerpt from our book, The Kinfolk Garden. Arts & Culture Issue 37 Rendered Impossible Those who can only dream of the great outdoors may as well have some fun while doing it. Arts & Culture Issue 37 Wild Thoughts On the nature of nature writing.