Have you ever noticed the way bamboo grows? Unlike the average tree or bush with smaller branches spaced along a main stem or truck, bamboo shoots grow out of the joints of the stalk at distinct sections along the way. Environmentally friendly and ecologically sustainable because of its rapid growth and ability to replenish itself, bamboo is abundant and useful around the world for many applications. Different parts of the bamboo plant are cultivated for food, building and construction materials, textiles, weaving, musical instruments and Chinese medicine.
A favorite subject of Chinese artists, great pains are taken to capture both the strength and beauty of this versatile plant. Brush strokes are even, measured and contemplative – painted in one motion to represent the continuity of the stalk. Viewed from a distance, bamboo appears wispy and gentle as it bows and lifts in the breeze. However, upon closer observation, it is much sturdier and in many ways a good metaphor for life. In Chinese Five Element Theory, bamboo represents yin wood – strong, upright and well rooted, yet flexible enough to bend and weather the storm. Its counterpart, yang wood (the mighty oak tree) holds its ground in the face of adversity, sometimes becoming completely upended by the wind or snapping off branches in the process.
Like bamboo, life rarely moves in a straight line and it is at specific junctures in time that we make decisions, change direction and grow. Strength and endurance come not always from standing our ground, but rather from our ability to adapt to life’s challenges. And like bamboo, it seems the simpler our life cycle along the way, the easier our path to self-cultivation. Small wonder that the Chinese use bamboo as a symbol for longevity, nobility and permanence.
Wishing you flexibility, a long life and good chi,
Diane Gallin, CFSC