Chinese Cultural Symbol: Bamboo
Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world. Their growth rate (up to .5-1 feet/day (1.5-2.0 inches/hr)) is due to a unique rhizome-dependent system, but is highly dependent on local soil and climate conditions.
The bamboo plant is the staple food of the giant panda and a cultural icon of elegance and classiness in Chinese history. It is a symbol of oriental beauty. It represents the character of moral integrity, resistance, modest, and loyalty.
In ancient China bamboo was a feature of various aspects of daily life. It was used for food, clothing, housing and transportation. China's first books were crafted from bamboo strips strung on string, and almost all ancient musical instruments were made of bamboo. People are still using paintbrush made from bamboo today.
In traditional Chinese culture, bamboo has profound cultural meanings beyond its biological existent. Bamboo is the symbol of noble qualities owing to its strength. It is an example of the harmony between nature and human being.
Bamboo stands hard and solid and that symbolizes a man’s faithfulness and firmness. Chinese think its deep root denotes resoluteness, its tall, straight stem represents honorability, its hollow interior modesty and its clean and Spartan exterior exemplifies chastity.
Bamboo remains green in winter season and stands for bravery in face of danger and difficulty. Bamboo’s joint, which is pronounced the same as integrity in Chinese, naturally becomes an emblem of integrity.
Bamboo has long been highly appreciated and pursued by the Chinese men of letters for its graceful color, posture and shade. With its endowed human personalities and natural charm, bamboo is always one of the leading characters in Chinese poetry and fine art.
Su Dongpo, a poet of the Song Dynasty, once put it: “A house without bamboo is worse than a meal without meat. A meal without meat could only make people skinny, and yet a house without bamboo makes people poor in taste”.
In addition, bamboo's long life makes it a Chinese symbol of longevity. In Chinese culture, the bamboo, plum blossom, orchid, and chrysanthemum are collectively referred to as the Four Noble Ones. These four plants also represent the four seasons and, in Confucian ideology, four aspects of the junzi ("prince" or "noble one").
The pine tree, the bamboo, and the plum blossom are also admired for their perseverance under harsh conditions, and are together known as the "Three Friends in Winter".
Bamboo, the culture symbol becomes one of major theme in Chinese painting, calligraphy and poem. For thousands of years, artists of generations use bamboo in the name of this spirit.
The plant marketed as "lucky bamboo" is actually an entirely unrelated plant, some people refer to it as the Gigi. It is a resilient member of the lily family that grows in the dark, tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia and Africa.
Lucky Bamboo has long been associated with the Eastern practice of Feng Shui - or the bringing of natural elements of water, fire, earth, wood and metal into balance within the environment. It is believed to be an ideal example of the thriving wood and water element, with the addition of a red ribbon sometimes tied around the stalks - which is believed to "fire" the positive flow of energy or chi in the room.
Learn more about Jade & Chinese Symbolism:
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Dragon
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Phoenix
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Butterfly
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Plum Blossom
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Bamboo
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Lotus