Bamboo is a very strong plant. Because of its sturdy root structure, it is symbol of prosperity in Japan.
The pine, bamboo, and plum (sho-chiku-bai) are an auspicious combination symbolizing long life, hardiness and vitality. The pine stands for longevity and endurance, and the bamboo is for flexibility and strength, and the plum represents a young spirit.
Bamboo is viewed as a symbol of traditional Chinese values. It is an example of the harmony between nature and human beings. Ancient Chinese people designated the plum, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum as the “four gentlemen”, and pine, bamboo and plum as the “three friends in winter”. People think its deep root denotes resoluteness; its tall, straight stem represents honor; its hollow interior modesty and its clean and spartan exterior exemplify chastity.
Ancient Chinese literature held bamboo in profound esteem. This explains why there are so many writings and paintings dedicated to the plant throughout history.
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In traditional Chinese culture, bamboo is a symbol of Oriental beauty. It represents the character of moral integrity, resistance, modesty and loyalty. It also stands as an example of loneliness and elegance, among others. This value becomes one of the major themes in Chinese painting, calligraphy and poetry. For thousands of years, generations of artists praised bamboo in the name of this spirit.
Throughout Japanese culture and history, the bamboo tree has been viewed with reverence and respect for its delicate beauty and as a symbol of endurance. It appears slender and vulnerable, yet it holds strength. Bamboo is also in great demand for use in making many products, including items used in the sacred tea ceremony.
Because of its spiritual significance, the bamboo tree motif is incorporated throughout Japan's landscaping, arts, architecture and temple gardens
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.