Andrew Quah wrote:
It occured to me today that the term "bonsai" has indeed become an umbrella term, if only because most people in western culture who come to the world of bonsai are not looking specifically for the unique characteristics of Japanese bonsai. They come looking for "pretty trees in pots", and little else. To be honest, I believe that the idea that "Japanese bonsai" is more correct than "Chinese bonsai" is only perpetuated by those who seek to be more Japanese than the Japanese.
There is actually a rather simple explanation for the prevalent Japanese mind set in the west and that is that they got here first, nothing more nothing less.
The west was first introduced to bonsai from the Japanese and therefore the Japanese mindset took root and developed before the Chinese Mindset was introduced. There is no one to blame for this other than the Chinese who "opened their doors" to the west at a much later time.
You said, "To be honest, I believe that the idea that "Japanese bonsai" is more correct than "Chinese bonsai" is only perpetuated by those who seek to be more Japanese than the Japanese."
I have to disagree and say that this was a baited statement designed to incite heated discussion.
What I practice is "Bonsai" which is a combination of all the information I have digested on growing trees in containers. I have been influenced by the Japanese, the Chinese, The Europeans, The Spanish, The Canadians, etc. Even the galleries here on this forum feature bonsai from around the world, the World View of Bonsai gallery here gives us a snapshot of the state of bonsai of basically the entire world. Bonsai is hardly Japanese anymore, nor it it Chinese.
Why the word bonsai? Because that is how the art form was introduced, billions of people recognize the word bonsai, it has indeed become generic. It is also much shorter than say an artistically designed living plant shaped to resemble an idealized vision of a tree in a container. If the Chinese would have introduced bonsai to the entire western world, we would be calling it pensai, but history writes the future, and so it is.