(lit. plantings in tray, from bon, a tray or low-sided pot and sai, a planting or plantings) is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing
Penjing , also known as penzai , tray landscape, potted scenery, potted landscape, and miniature trees and rockery is the ancient Chinese art of growing trees and plants, kept small by skilled pruning and formed to create an aesthetic shape and the complex illusion of age...

from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ
Hòn Non Bô
Hòn Non Bô is the Vietnamese art of making miniature landscapes, imitating the scenery of the islands, mountains and surrounding environment as found in nature...

. The Japanese tradition dates back over a thousand years, and has evolved its own unique aesthetics and terminology.

"Bonsai" is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term penzai (盆栽).