Bonsai is a Japanese pronounciation of the earlier Chinese term penzai.. A ''bon'' is a tray-like pot typically used in bonsai culture. The word ''bonsai'' is often used in English as an umbrella term for all miniature trees in container or pots. This article focuses on bonsai as defined in the Japanese tradition.
The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise effort and ingenuity (for the grower). By contrast with other plant cultivation practises, bonsai is not intended for production of food, for medicine or for creating yard size or park size gardens or landsacapes. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.