Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

China: Kingdom of Bamboo

Photo Credit: Henry Burrows 
Bamboo plays an integral part in the Chinese culture, whether practically or symbolically.

Known as one of the Four Gentlemen (representing the four seasons), the bamboo plant's strength, uprightness, flexibility, deep roots and long life makes it a symbol of traditional Chinese values.   It represents the virtues of modesty, tenacity, and honorability. 

Bamboo Shoot
Photo Credit: Emily
China has more bamboo than any other country, which includes 400 different species. It is an evergreen plant from the grass family, and is one of the fastest growing plants. It feeds the beloved pandas and houses the tiniest of creatures, including bamboo bats.

This short video shows a time lapse of bamboo growth over 24 hours. It's pretty incredible!

There is a history of bamboo agriculture and use for 7000 yrs, becoming in wide, daily use during the Shang dynasty. Ancient Chinese wore large bamboo hats to protect themselves from the rain and bamboo shoes to walk on muddy roads. Before paper was invented, writing was done on rolls of bamboo slats.

Bamboo has been, and continues to be, used for food, clothing, housing, transportation, weapons, and musical instruments.

Bamboo from our local Asian grocery store
Bamboo is used when cooking as an ingredient, vessel and utensil. The Dai have a special dish of bamboo rice in which the rice is cooked in the hollow of a segment of bamboo. We've used bamboo when making Mu Shu Pork and Buddha's Delight.

We've seen bamboo used in architecture when looking at traditional Dai housing.

And we listened to the traditional Miao bamboo read instrument, the Lusheng.

So many versatile uses for this incredible plant. Do you have anything made of bamboo in your home?

Explore bamboo with us: Paint bamboo with Chinese brush paintingincrease your luck with Lucky bamboo; and listen to, and make a replica of a traditional bamboo flute, the Dizi.


  1. Hello! I left a message yesterday but it doesn't seem to have come through??
    I really enjoyed hearing about the bamboo as something to eat. We have bamboo sticks in our garden and they are rock hard. It's weird to imagine them on our plate! What is the texture like to eat? I've just read your pork dish post and you said crunchy-like celery? I'm going to look out for some today and give it a try.

    1. The recipes that call for fresh bamboo mention spring and winter sprouts, which I imagine is much softer (and palatable!) The vacuum packed bamboo we tried for mu shu pork didn't have much of a taste, but yes crunchy, like celery without the stringiness or the freshness, honestly, but maybe that's due to processing for shipping? The bamboo seemed to have been blanched before it was packaged.It does seem to be added to recipes for texture rather than taste - which from what I've read is very common of Chinese ingredients - different textures being important.
      Let me know if you try some - I'd love to hear your, and your family's, thoughts on it :)

  2. I'm in China now, adopting, and I had a spicy bamboo salad a couple days ago. Bamboo shoots and chili oil. We also saw the Miao bamboo instruments at the Minority Museum in Nanning, Guangxi.

    You've probably researched the currency by now, but I found it interesting at the store today to discover that their 1 Jiao note is more like a dime in practical use. Also, 1 yuan comes in coin form and in bill form, and they're both commonly used.

    And if you're going to China, bring your own bags, as the stores either don't have them, or they charge extra for them, and bring your own napkins, as restaurants often do not provide them. (We've been getting by with Kleenex pocket packs and baby wipes. The Kleenex comes in handy at the squatty potties, too, as it's not always provided, and you don't flush it, you throw it in the trash.)

    1. So exciting!! You must be so happy to finally be there and meeting your child!

      I'll have to look up a recipe for spicy bamboo salad - I haven't found many recipes that specifically feature bamboo.

      Funny thing to take for granted, but I would be a mess - quite literally- without napkins! Thank goodness for baby wipes!


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