The symbolism of bamboo in Asian culture

The mystique and beauty of the bamboo forest is one of the most common themes for paintings and jade carvings, and bamboo forests have been used as atmospheric backdrops in many movies. For example, the Oscar-winning "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", directed by Ang Lee, was partly filmed in a bamboo forest.

In Chinese culture, the bamboo, plum blossom, orchid, and chrysanthemum (often known as méi lán zhú jú) are collectively referred to as the Four Noble Ones. These four plants also represent the four seasons. The pine tree, the bamboo, and the plum blossom (song zhú méi) are also admired for their perseverance under harsh conditions, and are together known as the "Three Friends in Winter".

In Japan, a bamboo forest sometimes surrounds a Shinto shrine as part of a sacred barrier against evil. Many Buddhist temples also have bamboo groves.

In Vietnam, bamboo symbolises the spirit of Vovinam, a Vietnamese martial art, the hometown and qualities of the Vietnamese soul. A Vietnamese proverb says: "When the bamboo is old, the bamboo sprouts appear", meaning that Vietnam will never be destroyed because if the previous generation dies, the children will take its place.

Several Asian cultures believe that humanity emerged from a bamboo stem. In the Philippine creation myth, legend tells that the first man and the first woman each emerged from split bamboo stems on an island created after the battle of the elemental forces (Sky and Ocean). In Malaysian legends a similar story includes a man who dreams of a beautiful woman while sleeping under a bamboo plant; he wakes up and breaks the bamboo stem, discovering the woman inside.

The Japanese folktale "Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" (Taketori Monogatari) tells of a princess from the Moon emerging from a shining bamboo section. Hawaiian bamboo ('ohe) is a kinolau or body form of the Polynesian creator god Kane Milohai.

Legals | © 2015 Asian Bamboo AG

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