) is a tribe of flowering perennial evergreen plants in the grass family Poaceae
, subfamily Bambusoideae
, tribe Bambuseae
. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. In bamboos, the internodal regions of the stem are hollow and the vascular bundles in the cross section are scattered throughout the stem instead of in a cylindrical arrangement. The dicotyledonous woody xylem is also absent. The absence of secondary growth wood causes the stems of monocots, even of palms and large bamboos, to be columnar rather than tapering.
Bamboos are some of the fastest-growing plants in the world, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.
Genus and geography
More than 10 genera are divided into about 1,450 species. Bamboo species are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. They occur across East Asia, from 50°N latitude in Sakhalin through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Americas from the Mid-Atlantic United States south to Argentina and Chile, reaching their southernmost point anywhere, at 47°S latitude. Continental Europe is not known to have any native species of bamboo.
Recently, some attempts have been made to grow bamboo on a commercial basis in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, especially in Rwanda. Companies in the United States are growing, harvesting and distributing species such as Henon and Moso.
Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on Earth, with reported growth rates of 100 cm (39 in) in 24 hours. However, the growth rate is dependent on local soil and climatic conditions, as well as species, and a more typical growth rate for many commonly cultivated bamboos in temperate climates is in the range of 3–10 centimetres (1.2–3.9 in) per day during the growing period. Primarily growing in regions of warmer climates during the late Cretaceous period, vast fields existed in what is now Asia. Some of the largest timber bamboo can grow over 30 m (98 ft) tall, and be as large as 15–20 cm (5.9–7.9 in) in diameter. However, the size range for mature bamboo is species dependent, with the smallest bamboos reaching only several inches high at maturity. A typical height range that would cover many of the common bamboos grown in the United States is 15–40 feet (4.6–12 m), depending on species.
Unlike trees, individual bamboo stems, or culms, emerge from the ground at their full diameter and grow to their full height in a single growing season of three to four months. During these several months, each new shoot grows vertically into a culm with no branching out until the majority of the mature height is reached. Then, the branches extend from the nodes and leafing out occurs. In the next year, the pulpy wall of each culm slowly hardens. During the third year, the culm hardens further. The shoot is now considered a fully mature culm. Over the next 2–5 years (depending on species), fungus begins to form on the outside of the culm, which eventually penetrate and overcome the culm. Around 5–8 years later (species and climate dependent), the fungal growths cause the culm to collapse and decay. This brief life means culms are ready for harvest and suitable for use in construction within about three to seven years. Individual bamboo culms do not get any taller or larger in diameter in subsequent years than they do in their first year, and they do not replace any growth lost from pruning or natural breakage. Bamboos have a wide range of hardiness depending on species and locale. Small or young specimens of an individual species will produce small culms initially. As the clump and its rhizome system mature, taller and larger culms will be produced each year until the plant approaches its particular species limits of height and diameter.
Many tropical bamboo species will die at or near freezing temperatures, while some of the hardier or so-called temperate bamboos can survive temperatures as low as -29 °C (-20 °F). Some of the hardiest bamboo species can be grown in places as cold as USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5–6, although they typically will defoliate and may even lose all above-ground growth, yet the rhizomes will survive and send up shoots again the next spring. In milder climates, such as USDA Zone 8 and above, some hardy bamboo may remain fully leafed out year around.
Most bamboo species flower infrequently. In fact, many bamboos only flower at intervals as long as 65 or 120 years. These taxa exhibit mass flowering (or gregarious flowering), with all plants in a particular species flowering worldwide over a several-year period. The longest mass flowering interval known is 130 years, and is found for all the species Phyllostachys bambusoides
(Sieb. & Zucc.). In this species, all plants of the same stock flower at the same time, regardless of differences in geographic locations or climatic conditions, and then the bamboo dies. The lack of environmental impact on the time of flowering indicates the presence of some sort of “alarm clock” in each cell of the plant which signals the diversion of all energy to flower production and the cessation of vegetative growth. This mechanism, as well as the evolutionary cause behind it, is still largely a mystery.
One theory to explain the evolution of this semelparous mass flowering is the predator satiation hypothesis. This theory argues that by fruiting at the same time, a population increases the survival rate of their seeds by flooding the area with fruit so even if predators eat their fill, seeds will still be left over. By having a flowering cycle longer than the lifespan of the rodent predators, bamboos can regulate animal populations by causing starvation during the period between flowering events. Thus, according to this hypothesis, the death of the adult clone is due to resource exhaustion, as it would be more effective for parent plants to devote all resources to creating a large seed crop than to hold back energy for their own regeneration.
A second theory, the fire cycle hypothesis, argues that periodic flowering followed by death of the adult plants has evolved as a mechanism to create disturbance in the habitat, thus providing the seedlings with a gap in which to grow. This hypothesis argues that the dead culms create a large fuel load, and also a large target for lightning strikes, increasing the likelihood of wildfire. Because bamboos can be aggressive as early successional plants, the seedlings would be able to outstrip other plants and take over the space left by their parents.
However, both have been disputed for different reasons. The predator satiation theory does not explain why the flowering cycle is 10 times longer than the lifespan of the local rodents, something not predicted by the theory. The bamboo fire cycle theory is considered by a few scientists to be unreasonable; they argue that fires only result from humans and there is no natural fire in India. This notion is considered wrong based on distribution of lightning strike data during the dry season throughout India. However, another argument against this theory is the lack of precedent for any living organism to harness something as unpredictable as lightning strikes to increase its chance of survival as part of natural evolutionary progress.
The mass fruiting also has direct economic and ecological consequences, however. The huge increase in available fruit in the forests often causes a boom in rodent populations, leading to increases in disease and famine in nearby human populations. For example, devastating consequences occur when the Melocanna bambusoides population flowers and fruits once every 30–35 years around the Bay of Bengal. The death of the bamboo plants following their fruiting means the local people lose their building material, and the large increase in bamboo fruit leads to a rapid increase in rodent populations. As the number of rodents increase, they consume all available food, including grain fields and stored food, sometimes leading to famine. These rats can also carry dangerous diseases, such as typhus, typhoid, and bubonic plague, which can reach epidemic proportions as the rodents increase in number. The relationship between rat populations and bamboo flowering was examined in a 2009 Nova documentary Rat Attack.
In any case, flowering produces masses of seeds, typically suspended from the ends of the branches. These seeds will give rise to a new generation of plants that may be identical in appearance to those that preceded the flowering, or they may also produce new cultivars with different characteristics, such as the presence or absence of striping or other changes in coloration of the culms.
As animal diet
Soft bamboo shoots, stems, and leaves are the major food source of the giant panda of China, the red panda of Nepal and the bamboo lemurs of Madagascar. Rats will eat the fruits as described above. Mountain gorillas of Africa also feed on bamboo, and have been documented consuming bamboo sap which was fermented and alcoholic; chimps and elephants of the region also eat the stalks.
The larvae of the bamboo borer (the moth Omphisa fuscidentalis
) of Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Yunnan Province, China, feeds off the pulp of live bamboo. In turn, these caterpillars are considered a local delicacy.
Timber is harvested from cultivated and wild stands and some of the larger bamboos, particularly species in the genus Phyllostachys
, are known as "timber bamboos".
Bamboo used for construction purposes must be harvested when the culms reach their greatest strength and when sugar levels in the sap are at their lowest, as high sugar content increases the ease and rate of pest infestation.
Harvesting of bamboo is typically undertaken according to the following cycles:
1) Life cycle of the culm: As each individual culm goes through a 5– to 7-year life cycle, culms are ideally allowed to reach this level of maturity prior to full capacity harvesting. The clearing out or thinning of culms, particularly older decaying culms, helps to ensure adequate light and resources for new growth. Well-maintained clumps may have a productivity three to four times that of an unharvested wild clump.
2) Life cycle of the culm: Consistent with the life cycle described above, bamboo is harvested from two to three years through to five to seven years, depending on the species.
3) Annual cycle: As all growth of new bamboo occurs during the wet season, disturbing the clump during this phase will potentially damage the upcoming crop. Also during this high rainfall period, sap levels are at their highest, and then diminish towards the dry season. Picking immediately prior to the wet/growth season may also damage new shoots. Hence, harvesting is best at the end of the dry season, a few months prior to the start of the wet.
4) Daily cycle: During the height of the day, photosynthesis is at its peak, producing the highest levels of sugar in sap, making this the least ideal time of day to harvest. Many traditional practitioners believe the best time to harvest is at dawn or dusk on a waning moon. This practice makes sense in terms of both moon cycles, visibility, and daily cycles.
Leaching is the removal of sap after harvest. In many areas of the world, the sap levels in harvested bamboo are reduced either through leaching or postharvest photosynthesis. Examples of this practice include:
Cut bamboo is raised clear of the ground and leant against the rest of the clump for one to two weeks until leaves turn yellow to allow full consumption of sugars by the plant.
A similar method is undertaken, but with the base of the culm standing in fresh water, either in a large drum or stream to leach out sap.
Cut culms are immersed in a running stream and weighted down for three to four weeks.
Water is pumped through the freshly cut culms, forcing out the sap (this method is often used in conjunction with the injection of some form of treatment).
In the process of water leaching, the bamboo is dried slowly and evenly in the shade to avoid cracking in the outer skin of the bamboo, thereby reducing opportunities for pest infestation.
Durability of bamboo in construction is directly related to how well it is handled from the moment of planting through harvesting, transportation, storage, design, construction and maintenance. Bamboo harvested at the correct time of year and then exposed to ground contact or rain, will break down just as quickly as incorrectly harvested material.
The two general patterns for the growth of bamboo are "clumping" (sympodial) and "running" (monopodial). Clumping bamboo species tend to spread slowly, as the growth pattern of the rhizomes is to simply expand the root mass gradually, similar to ornamental grasses. "Running" bamboos, on the other hand, need to be taken care of in cultivation because of their potential for aggressive behavior. They spread mainly through their roots and/or rhizomes, which can spread widely underground and send up new culms to break through the surface. Running bamboo species are highly variable in their tendency to spread; this is related to both the species and the soil and climate conditions. Some can send out runners of several metres a year, while others can stay in the same general area for long periods. If neglected, over time they can cause problems by moving into adjacent areas.
Bamboos seldom and unpredictably flower, and the frequency of flowering varies greatly from species to species. Once flowering takes place, a plant will decline and often die entirely. Although there are always a few species of bamboo in flower at any given time, collectors desiring to grow specific bamboo typically obtain their plants as divisions of already-growing plants, rather than waiting for seeds to be produced.
Regular maintenance will indicate major growth directions and locations. Once the rhizomes are cut, they are typically removed; however, rhizomes take a number of months to mature, and an immature, severed rhizome will usually cease growing if left in-ground. If any bamboo shoots come up outside of the bamboo area afterwards, their presence indicates the precise location of the missed rhizome. The fibrous roots that radiate from the rhizomes do not produce more bamboo if they stay in the ground.
Bamboo growth can also be controlled by surrounding the plant or grove with a physical barrier. Typically, concrete and specially rolled HDPE plastic are the materials used to create the barrier, which is placed in a 60– to 90-cm-deep ditch around the planting, and angled out at the top to direct the rhizomes to the surface. (This is only possible if the barrier is installed in a straight line.) If the containment area is small, this method can be detrimental to ornamental bamboo, as the bamboo within can become rootbound and start to display the signs of any unhealthy containerized plant. In addition, rhizomes can escape over the top, or beneath the barrier if it is not deep enough. Strong rhizomes and tools can penetrate plastic barriers, so care must be taken. In small areas, regular maintenance may be the best method for controlling the running bamboos. Barriers and edging are unnecessary for clump-forming bamboos, although these may eventually need to have portions removed if they become too large.
The ornamental plant sold in containers and marketed as "lucky bamboo" is actually an entirely unrelated plant, Dracaena sanderiana. 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. On a similar note, Japanese knotweed is also sometimes mistaken for a bamboo, but it grows wild and is considered an invasive species.
The shoots (new culms that come out of the ground) of bamboo are edible. They are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths, and are available in supermarkets in various sliced forms, in both fresh and canned versions. The shoots of the giant bamboo (Cathariostachys madagascariensis
) contain cyanide. Despite this, the golden bamboo lemur ingests many times the quantity of toxin that would kill a human.
The bamboo shoot in its fermented state forms an important ingredient in cuisines across the Himalayas. In Assam, India, for example, it is called khorisa
. In Nepal, a delicacy popular across ethnic boundaries consists of bamboo shoots fermented with turmeric and oil, and cooked with potatoes into a dish that usually accompanies rice (alu tama
In Indonesia, they are sliced thin and then boiled with santan (thick coconut milk) and spices to make a dish called gulai rebung. Other recipes using bamboo shoots are sayur lodeh
(mixed vegetables in coconut milk) and lun pia
(sometimes written lumpia
: fried wrapped bamboo shoots with vegetables). The shoots of some species contain toxins that need to be leached or boiled out before they can be eaten safely.
Pickled bamboo, used as a condiment, may also be made from the pith of the young shoots.
The sap of young stalks tapped during the rainy season may be fermented to make ulanzi (a sweet wine) or simply made into a soft drink. Bamboo leaves are also used as wrappers for steamed dumplings which usually contains glutinous rice and other ingredients.
Pickled bamboo shoots (Nepali: tama
) are cooked with black-eyed beans as a delicacy food in Nepal. Many Nepalese restaurant around the world serve this dish as aloo bodi tama. Fresh bamboo shoots are sliced and pickled with mustard seeds and turmeric and kept in glass jar in direct sunlight for the best taste. It is used alongside many dried beans in cooking during winter months. Baby shoots (Nepali: tusa
) of a very different variety of bamboo (Nepali: Nigalo
) native to Nepal is cooked as a curry in Hilly regions.
In Sambalpur, India, the tender shoots are grated into juliennes and fermented to prepare kardi. The name is derived from the Sanskrit word for bamboo shoot, karira. This fermented bamboo shoot is used in various culinary preparations, notably amil, a sour vegetable soup. It is also made into pancakes using rice flour as a binding agent. The shoots that have turned a little fibrous are fermented, dried, and ground to sand-sized particles to prepare a garnish known as hendua. It is also cooked with tender pumpkin leaves to make sag green leaves.
The empty hollow in the stalks of larger bamboo is often used to cook food in many Asian cultures. Soups are boiled and rice is cooked in the hollows of fresh stalks of bamboo directly over a flame. Similarly, steamed tea is sometimes rammed into bamboo hollows to produce compressed forms of Pu-erh tea. Cooking food in bamboo is said to give the food a subtle but distinctive taste.
In addition, bamboo is frequently used for cooking utensils within many cultures, and is used in the manufacture of chopsticks. In modern times, some see bamboo tools as an ecofriendly alternative to other manufactured utensils.
Bamboo is used in Chinese medicine for treating infections and healing.
In Ayurveda, the Indian system of traditional medicine, the silicious concretion found in the culms of the bamboo stem is called banslochan. It is known as tabashir or tawashir in unani-tibb the Indo-Persian system of medicine. In English, it is called "bamboo manna". This concretion is said to be a tonic for the respiratory diseases. It was earlier obtained from Melocanna bambusoides
and is very hard to get. In most Indian literature, Bambusa arundinacea
is described as the source of bamboo manna.
In its natural form, bamboo as a construction material is traditionally associated with the cultures of South Asia, East Asia and the South Pacific, to some extent in Central and South America, and by extension in the aesthetic of Tiki culture. In China and India, bamboo was used to hold up simple suspension bridges, either by making cables of split bamboo or twisting whole culms of sufficiently pliable bamboo together. One such bridge in the area of Qian-Xian is referenced in writings dating back 960 AD, and may have stood since as far back as the third century BC, due largely to continuous maintenance.
Bamboo has also long been used as scaffolding; the practice has been banned in China for buildings over six storeys, but is still in continuous use for skyscrapers in Hong Kong. In the Philippines, the nipa hut is a fairly typical example of the most basic sort of housing where bamboo is used; the walls are split and woven bamboo, and bamboo slats and poles may be used as its support. In Japanese architecture, bamboo is used primarily as a supplemental and/or decorative element in buildings such as fencing, fountains, grates and gutters, largely due to the ready abundance of quality timber.
Bamboo scaffolding can reach great heights.
Various structural shapes may be made by training the bamboo to assume them as it grows. Squared sections of bamboo are created by compressing the growing stalk within a square form. Arches may similarly be created by forcing the bamboo's growth with the desired form, and costs much less than it would to assume the same shape in regular wood timber. More traditional forming methods, such as the application of heat and pressure, may also be used to curve or flatten the cut stalks.
Bamboo can be cut and laminated into sheets and planks. This process involves cutting stalks into thin strips, planing them flat, boiling and drying the strips; they are then glued, pressed and finished. Generally long used in China and Japan, entrepreneurs started developing and selling laminated bamboo flooring in the West during the mid-1990s; products made from bamboo laminate, including flooring, cabinetry, furniture and even decorations, are currently surging in popularity, transitioning from the boutique market to mainstream providers, such as Home Depot. The bamboo goods industry (which also includes small goods, fabric, etc.) is expected to be worth $25 billion by 2012. The quality of bamboo laminate varies between manufacturers and the maturity of the plant from which it was harvested (six years being considered the optimum); the sturdiest products fulfil their claims of being up to three times harder than oak hardwood, but others may be softer than standard hardwood.
Bamboo intended for use in construction should be treated to resist insects and rot. The most common solution for this purpose is a mixture of borax and boric acid. Another process involves boiling cut bamboo to remove the starches that attract insects.
Bamboo has been used as reinforcement for concrete in those areas where it is plentiful, though dispute exists over its effectiveness in the various studies done on the subject. Bamboo does have the necessary strength to fulfil this function, but untreated bamboo will swell from the absorption of water from the concrete, causing it to crack. Several procedures must be followed to overcome this shortcoming.
Several institutes, businesses, and universities are researching the use of bamboo as an ecological construction material. In the United States and France, it is possible to get houses made entirely of bamboo, which are earthquake and cyclone-resistant and internationally certified. In Bali, Indonesia, an international primary school, the Green School, is constructed entirely of bamboo, for its beauty and advantages as a sustainable resource. There are three ISO standards for bamboo as a construction material.
In parts of India, bamboo is used for drying clothes indoors, both as a rod high up near the ceiling to hang clothes on, and as a stick wielded with acquired expert skill to hoist, spread, and to take down the clothes when dry. It is also commonly used to make ladders, which apart from their normal function, are also used for carrying bodies in funerals. In Maharashtra, the bamboo groves and forests are called VeLuvana, the name velu for bamboo is most likely from Sanskrit, while vana means forest.
Furthermore, bamboo is also used to create flagpoles for saffron-coloured, Hindu religious flags, which can be seen fluttering across India, especially Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, as well as in Guyana and Suriname.
Bamboo is used for the structural members of the India pavilion at Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The pavilion is the world’s largest bamboo dome, about 34 m in diameter, with bamboo beams/members overlaid with a ferro-concrete slab, water-proofing, copper plate, solar PV panels, a small windmill and live plants. A total of 30 km of bamboo was used. The dome is supported on 18-m-long steel piles and a series of steel ring beams. The bamboo was treated with borax and boric acid as a fire retardant and insecticide and bent in the required shape. The bamboo sections are joined with reinforcement bars and concrete mortar to achieve necessary lengths.
Because the fibers of bamboo are very short (less than 3 mm), they are impossible to transform into yarn in a natural process. The usual process by which textiles labeled as being made of bamboo are produced uses only rayon made from the fibers with heavy employment of chemicals. To accomplish this, the fibers are broken down with chemicals and extruded through mechanical spinnerets; the chemicals include lye, carbon disulfide and strong acids. Retailers have sold both end products as "bamboo fabric" to cash in on bamboo's current ecofriendly cachet; however, the Canadian Competition Bureau and the US Federal Trade Commission, as of mid-2009, are cracking down on the practice of labeling bamboo rayon as natural bamboo fabric. Under the guidelines of both agencies, these products must be labeled as rayon with the optional qualifier "from bamboo".
Bamboo fiber has been used to make paper in China since early times. A high-quality, handmade paper is still produced in small quantities. Coarse bamboo paper is still used to make spirit money in many Chinese communities.
Bamboo pulps are mainly produced in China, Myanmar, Thailand and India, and are used in printing and writing papers. The most common bamboo species used for paper are Dendrocalamus asper and Bamboo bluemanea. It is also possible to make dissolving pulp from bamboo. The average fiber length is similar to hardwoods, but the properties of bamboo pulp are closer to softwood pulps due to it having a very broad fiber length distribution. With the help of molecular tools, it is now possible to distinguish the superior fiber-yielding species/varieties even at juvenile stages of their growth, which can help in unadulterated merchandise production.
Bamboo has a long history of use in Asian furniture. Chinese bamboo furniture is a distinct style based on a millennia-long tradition.
Several manufacturers offer bamboo bicycles and skateboards.
Due to its flexibility, bamboo is also used to make fishing rods. The split cane rod is especially prized for fly fishing. Bamboo has been traditionally used in Malaysia as a firecracker called a meriam buluh or bamboo cannon. Four-foot-long sections of bamboo are cut, and a mixture of water and calcium carbide are introduced. The resulting acetylene gas is ignited with a stick, producing a loud bang. Bamboo can be used in water desalination. A bamboo filter is used to remove the salt from seawater.
In Asian culture
Bamboo's long life makes it a Chinese symbol of longevity, while in India it is a symbol of friendship. The rarity of its blossoming has led to the flowers' being regarded as a sign of impending famine. This may be due to rats feeding upon the profusion of flowers, then multiplying and destroying a large part of the local food supply. The most recent flowering began in May 2006 (see Mautam). Bamboo is said to bloom in this manner only about every 50 years (see 28–60 year examples in FAO: 'gregarious' species table).
In Chinese culture, the bamboo, plum blossom, orchid, and chrysanthemum (often known as méi lán zhú jú
) are collectively referred to as the Four Gentlemen. These four plants also represent the four seasons and, in Confucian ideology, four aspects of the junzi
("prince" or "noble one"). The pine (song
), the bamboo (zhú
), and the plum blossom (méi
) are also admired for their perseverance under harsh conditions, and are together known as the "Three Friends of Winter" (suìhán sanyou) in Chinese culture. The "Three Friends of Winter" is traditionally used as a system of ranking in Japan, for example in sushi sets or accommodations at a traditional ryokan. Pine (matsu
) is of the first rank, bamboo (také
) is of second rank, and plum (ume
) is of the third.
Bamboo, noble and useful
Bamboo, one of the “four gentlemen” (bamboo, orchid, plum blossom and chrysanthemum), plays such an important role in traditional Chinese culture that it is even regarded as a behaviour model of the gentleman. As bamboo has some features such as uprightness, tenacity and hollow heart, people endow bamboo with integrity, elegance and plainness, though it is not physically strong. Ancient Chinese poets wrote countless poems to praise bamboo, but actually they were truly talking about people like bamboo and express their understanding of what a real gentleman should be like. According to laws, an ancient poet, Bai Juyi (772–846), thought that to be a gentleman, a man does not need to be physically strong, but he must be mentally strong, upright, and perseverant. Just as a bamboo is hollow-hearted, he should open his heart to accept anything of benefit and never have arrogance or prejudice. Bamboo is not only a symbol of gentleman, but also an important role in Buddhism. In the first century, Buddhism was introduced into China. As canons of Buddhism do not allow its believers to do anything cruel to animals, meat, egg and fish were not allowed in the diet. However, people need something nutritious to live; thus, the tender bamboo shoot (sun
in Chinese) became a good choice. The bamboo shoot is nutritious, and eating it does not violate the canon. With thousands of years’ development, how to eat bamboo shoot has become a part of cuisine system, especially for monks. A Buddhist monk, Zan Ning, wrote a manual of the bamboo shoot called “Sun Pu”. He offered descriptions and recipes for many kinds of bamboo shoots. Bamboo shoot has always been a traditional dish on the Chinese dinner table, especially in southern China. In ancient times, as long as people have money to buy a big house with yard, they will always plant bamboos in their garden. Bamboo is a necessary element of Chinese culture, or even in the whole Asian civilization. People plant bamboos, eat bamboo shoots, paint bamboos, write poems for bamboos, and speak highly of gentlemen who are like bamboos. Bamboo is not only a plant, but also a part of people’s lives.
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 northern Indian state of Assam, the fermented bamboo paste known as khorisa
is known locally as a folk remedy for the treatment of impotence, infertility, and menstrual pains.
Bamboo plays an important part of the culture of Vietnam. Bamboo symbolizes the spirit of Vovinam
(a Vietnamese martial arts). Bamboo also symbolizes the Vietnamese hometown and Vietnamese soul: the gentlemanlike, straightforwardness, hard working, optimism, unity and adaptability. A Vietnamese proverb says, "When the bamboo is old, the bamboo sprouts appear", the meaning being Vietnam will never be annihilated; if the previous generation dies, the children take their place. Therefore, the Vietnam nation and Vietnamese value will be maintained and developed eternally. Traditional Vietnamese villages are surrounded by thick bamboo hedges (luy tre).
The Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD) Chinese scientist and polymath Shen Kuo (1031–1095) used the evidence of underground petrified bamboo found in the dry northern climate of Yan'an, Shanbei region, Shaanxi province to support his geological theory of gradual climate change.
Myths and legends
Several Asian cultures, including that of the Andaman Islands, believe 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.
Bamboo cane is also the weapon of Vietnamese legendary hero Saint Giong – who had grown up immediately and magically since the age of three because of his national liberating wish against Ân invaders.
An ancient Vietnamese legend (The Hundred-knot Bamboo Tree) tells of a poor, young farmer who fell in love with his landlord's beautiful daughter. The farmer asked the landlord for his daughter's hand in marriage, but the proud landlord would not allow her to be bound in marriage to a poor farmer. The landlord decided to foil the marriage with an impossible deal; the farmer must bring him a "bamboo tree of 100 nodes". But Buddha appeared to the farmer and told him that such a tree could be made from 100 nodes from several different trees. uddha gave to him four magic words to attach the many nodes of bamboo, which mean "joined together immediately, fell apart immediately". The triumphant farmer returned to the landlord and demanded his daughter. Curious to see such a long bamboo, the landlord was magically joined to the bamboo when he touched it, as the young farmer said the first two magic words. The story ends with the happy marriage of the farmer and the landlord's daughter after the landlord agreed to the marriage and asked to be separated from the bamboo.
In a Chinese legend, the Emperor Yao gave two of his daughters to the future Emperor Shun as a test for his potential to rule . Shun passed the test of being able to run his household with the two emperor's daughters as wives, and thus Yao made Shun his successor, bypassing his unworthy son. Later, Shun drowned in the Xiang River. The tears his two bereaved wives let fall upon the bamboos growing there explains the origin of spotted bamboo. The two women later became goddesses.
As a writing surface
Bamboo was in widespread use in early China as a medium for written documents. The earliest surviving examples of such documents, written in ink on string-bound bundles of bamboo strips (or "slips"), date from the fifth century BC during the Warring States period. However, references in earlier texts surviving on other media make it clear that some precursor of these Warring States period bamboo slips was in use as early as the late Shang period (from about 1250 BC).
Bamboo or wooden strips were the standard writing material during the Han dynasty, and excavated examples have been found in abundance. Subsequently, paper began to displace bamboo and wooden strips from mainstream uses, and by the fourth century AD, bamboo slips had been largely abandoned as a medium for writing in China. Several paper industries are surviving on bamboo forests. Ballarpur (Chandrapur, Maharstra) paper mills use bamboo for paper production.
As a weapon
Bamboo is used in several East Asian and South Asian martial arts.
In the ancient Tamil martial art of Silambam, fighters would hit each other rapidly with bamboo sticks.
In the Japanese martial art Kendo, bamboo is used to make the Shinai sword.
A bamboo stick can be made into a simple spear by sharpening one of the ends.
In archery, the longbow and recurve bow limbs are commonly crafted with flat ground bamboo, and also used to make superior weapons for bowhunting and target archery.
History's first gunpowder-based weapons, such as the fire lance, were made of bamboo.
The ethnic group, the Bozo of West Africa, take their name from the Bambara phrase bo-so
, which means "bamboo house".
Bamboo is the national plant of St. Lucia.