Bamboo and plum together suggest man and wife. A vase with bamboo fireworks is a wish for peace. Bamboo symbolises modesty, long life and courage in adversity because it does not break even in a strong wind. It also represents the ideal scholar – steadfast yet flexible; the hollow stem shows the ability to absorb knowledge, and also an empty heart indicates modesty. The character for the joint of the bamboo is the same as integrity: jie 節
Notable bamboo painters include:
- Wen Tong (northern Song)- “there are whole bamboos in his heart” (胸有成竹)
- Guan Daosheng (Yuan)
- Li Kan (Yuan)
- Gu An (Yuan)
- Ke Jiusi (Yuan)
- Guo Bi (Yuan)
- Wu Zhen (Yuan)
- Wang Fu (Ming)
- Xia Chang (Ming)
- Wen Zhengming (Ming)
- Shitao (Qing)
- Wu Changshuo (Qing)
- Zheng Xie (Qing)
See paintings of bamboo here.
Bamboo is usually painted in ink, with subtle variations in tone. In free-brush literati painting, the use of colour need not be literal. If the form and qi are shown in the painting, the colour need not be naturalistic. So bamboo can be painted in vermilion, or indigo or green …
Su Shi (1037 – 1101, also called Su Dongpo) was a famous artist, calligrapher and poet of the Song Dynasty. Bamboo and water were his favourite subjects. His friend Mi Fu said that he painted bamboo in one stroke from ground to tip: however, no authenticated painting of his survives. It is said that one day Su Shi painted bamboo in vermilion. A colleague asked indignantly: why have you painted it like that, have you ever seen red bamboo in nature ? How should I have painted it, asked Su Shi. In ink of course ! But have you ever seen in nature bamboo the colour of ink ?
There are many videos of bamboo painting available, but not all show good technique.
- Virginia Lloyd-Davies shows well how to paint leaves and twigs, and does a complete painting in the traditional order.
- Henry Li (Blue Heron) shows examples 1 & 2 & 3 , and a bamboo manual. plus a rather large painting, though I don’t like the use of colour and hake brush.
- This has a nice illustration of the triangular grouping of leaves.
- Chinese painter of rain bamboo parts 1, 2, 3, 4.
- This has an attractive painting on what looks like sized paper, with a soothing piano accompaniment.
© Angela Reich 2021