Introduction to Bamboo Symbolism
The bamboo is the most popular plant in China. Every village in Southern China is surrounded by bamboo groves. To be Chinese is to feel at home with bamboo. The drooping bamboo leaves cross one another, as if they are composing the Chinese character "An" (tranquility). For the wandering traveler writing letters back home, to include a bamboo leaf is to say, "I am fine, I hope that everyone in the family is enjoying peace."
Bamboo Symbolism and the Spirit of Summer
In the order of the Four Gentlemen (the seasons of the year), the bamboo represents the spirit of summer. But since the bamboo lasts through all seasons, it is frequently associated with pine and plum as the "Three Winter Friends."The bamboo is considered a gentleman with perfect virtues. It combines upright integrity with accommodating flexibility; it has the perfect balance of grace and strength, or the Yin and the Yang.
When the storm comes, the bamboo bends with the wind. When the storm ceases, it resumes its upright position. Its ability to cope with adversity and still stand firmly without losing its original ground is inspirational to a nation which has constantly suffered calamities.
Bamboo Symbolism: The Scholar
Bamboo is used in every phase of Chinese living, yet it needs very little care to grow and flourish. It is well-sectioned with a polished "skin" and sturdy texture. Like a self-cultivated scholar in hermitage, it is ready to render services when called upon.
Bamboo Symbolism: Simplicity and Humility
Bamboo personifies the life of simplicity. It produces neither flowers nor fruit. Chen Pan Chiao compared himself to bamboo, saying, "I will not grow flowers, so that I avoid tempting the butterflies and bees to disturb me." The hollow trunk reminds the Chinese of humility. One artist said, "Bamboo, who understands humility by emptying his heart, (without stuffing it with arrogance) is my teacher."
Bamboo Symbolism: Respect for Elders
The young branches at the top of the bamboo trunk will not grow at the same angle as the older branches below, in order to allow sunlight for their elders. When the young shoots emerge from the roots, they are under the shade of the older bamboo branches. Such a spirit reflects the young respecting the old as well as the old protecting the young.
The Amazing Bamboo Plant
Bamboo are the fastest growing plant on earth, reaching their full height in a single season. They are used as building materials, for food and as decorative plants for gardens and homes. Bamboo are the largest members of the grass family and are found in highly diverse climates.
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Unusual Reproduction Ecology
Bamboo plants do flower occasionally, but usually at intervals of 60 to 130 years! A grove of bamboo all flower at the same time, followed by the death of the adult plants. This unusual behavior greatly affects the ecology of the surrounding area--resulting in a growth in rodent populations that feed on the flowers, followed by a possible ravaging of nearby fields of crops intended for humans. (Photo courtesy of Moeng, Wikimedia Commons)
Medicinal Uses of Bamboo
Bamboo is used in Chinese medicine to speed healing and reduce infections, In traditional Indian medicine, or Ayurveda, substances from the bamboo stem are used to treat respiratory infections.
Musical Instruments from Bamboo
Bamboo is a natural choice for wind and percussion instruments because of its hollow form. Bamboo flutes and pipes are common around the world. Bamboo wood is sometimes used in place of other woods for stringed instruments. Bamboo can even be used to create a full organ. (Photo courtesy of Lombroso, Wikimedia Commons.)
Bamboo Photos for Projects and Design
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More Information About Chinese Symbols
For more information about Chinese symbols, see the following Amazon books:
More About the Chinese Five Elements
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