As with many cultures, China has symbolism within its art that clearly reflects the value of various objects to its culture and heritage. One of these is the use of bamboo, a crucial aspect of Chinese culture. Bamboo is a crucial source of food for one of China’s most beloved symbols, the giant panda bear. Bamboo is also a source of an important national resource. For the Chinese culture, there are symbolic aspects associated with bamboo. To the Chinese culture, bamboo represents virtue. Due to its value within the culture, bamboo is often seen in Chinese paintings (British Museum, 2008).
Bamboo has a long and noble history within the Chinese culture. Its use extends back 7,000 years into the history of China. “The plant represents the character of moral integrity, resistance, modesty and loyalty. It also stands as an example of loneliness and elegance, among others” (China Daily 2011). Because of these virtues extolled within Chinese civilization, the bamboo plant became one of the dominant images within the painting and art work of China. The plant also represents vitality, another important aspect of Chinese culture. This symbolism developed because of the hardiness of bamboo as a plant species; bamboo is also green year round (British Museum, 2008).
In Chinese paintings and Chinese art, bamboo is often seen as a dominant aspect of the landscape. Traditionally, the painting of bamboo by the artist was utilized to indicate his control of ink flow onto the canvas. The handling of this aspect of painting was also utilized to indicate the level of calligraphy that an artist had achieved. However, in recent years, the handling of bamboo in paintings has changed. The method by which the painter Chen Shuren handled bamboo as a symbol has changed the traditional image of it. Chen utilized a broader stroke when painting this traditional symbol. Additionally, he utilized close-ups of the bamboo stalk to highlight his lines. However, despite any artistic changes in its handling, bamboo remains one of the dominant symbols of Chinese art and culture (Croizier 161).
- British Museum. “Chinese Symbols.” 2008. 16 October 2013. http://www.britishmuseum.org/pdf/chinese_symbols_1109.pdf
- China Daily. “Bamboo: A Symbol of Traditional Chinese Values.” 19 January 2011. 16 October 2013. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2011-01/19/content_11882983.htm
- Croizier, Ralph C. Art and Revolution in Modern China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.