These trees originate in Japan and dates back over a thousand years. The word "bonsai" is the japanese pronunciation of the early chinese term penzai. "bon" means tray-like pot. These flattened bowls have been made in China since 5,000 years ago. The Bonsai tree was considered "sacred" because it could not be used for ordinary purposes such as lumber. The first tray landscapes were believed to be brought to Japan from China about 1,200 years ago. These were brought as religious souvenirs.