Bamboo is a species of tree that has been recorded by the Vietnamese from the early days of history. There are many usages with different parts used for a purpose. Learn more about the uses of bamboo in Vietnam and its meaning in the local culture.
Bamboo is planted mostly in the rural area, scattered throughout Vietnam's territory. There are about 1000 species of bamboo around the world. And in Vietnam, nearly 300 species of bamboo have been discovered, making up for more than one-third species of the world.
A beautiful image of the countryside with bamboo surroundings
Bamboo is a flowering evergreen plant, but it is very hard for us to see the bamboo flowers. Because the flowers of bamboo only appear at the end of the bamboo plants’ lives. It takes a bamboo tree about 30 to 50 years to have flowers. The flowers of bamboo are light yellow and have a strong scent.
The height of each bamboo stem ranges from 1 meters up to 20 meters. The stem is hollow and joint by nodes; the distance between these nodes is about 40-60 centimeters. Its diameter is sometimes up to 25-30 centimeters. Bamboo is a flexible plant which can live in diverse conditions of climate.
Bamboo as a kind of food: Since ages ago, bamboo shoots have become familiar food in Vietnamese meals. Bamboo shoots contain various nutrients and minerals such as selenium, potassium. Besides, with low carbohydrate and sugar level, bamboo shoots become an ideal food to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Bamboo shoots are also rich in fiber, which helps to eliminate bad cholesterol from the body.
Bamboo shoots can be used in 2 forms: fresh bamboo shoots and dried bamboo shoots. Fresh ones are often cooked by stir-frying, boiling. Meanwhile dried bamboo shoots are usually used in simmering dishes, especially cooked in the Vietnamese Tet holiday.
Bamboo in building structures: One of the most common uses of bamboo in Vietnam is for construction. Bamboo is used as a building material to form many constructions, from the stagings to houses, and bridges because of its durability, light-weight, and elasticity.
A bamboo house in Hanoi
Many Vietnamese constructions made from the bamboo material are made popular by Bamboo Wing (Vinh Phuc province), Trang Bang Bamboo House (Tay Ninh Province), Gio & Nuoc Cafe (Binh Duong Province).
In the Southern region of Vietnam, in the Mekong Delta, there is a very popular kind of bridge made from bamboo, it is usually called “Cau Khi” (Monkey Bridge).
Cau Khi is known as the Monkey Bridge
Bamboo as furniture and everyday items: Traditional Vietnamese often prefer decorating their house with furniture from wood, especially the items of furniture made from bamboo. Bamboo can be made into many kinds of items such as chopsticks, baskets, chairs, armchairs, beds, doors, windows, and tables.
A bedroom with bamboo furniture
Bamboo is a favorite material of many architecture thanks to its advantages. Bamboo is an eco-friendly, strong, and durable material. It is also resistant to moisture and insects. A house with bamboo furniture usually has natural and simple charms. In modern architecture, appliances made from bamboo are also utilized as an interesting highlight.
Bamboo as musical instruments: Vietnamese really love music, especially those who reside in the countryside of Vietnam. So they think of many ways to create interesting melodies. The instrument from bamboo is one of those ways. Many kinds of musical instruments in Vietnam can be made from bamboo such as flute, panpipes, drumstick, castanets, monochord, etc.
Bamboo in the wars: In the past, the Vietnamese army did not have resources to make the weapon from iron or steel, so bamboo became a useful material for the weapon against invaders as its strength, hardness, and versatility. It was often sharpened and made into traps to use against the enemy. In addition, the many bamboo clusters formed a strong fence and bastion preventing penetration from invaders.
Uses of bamboo in the industry: Bamboo is a source of supply for the paper industry. It is also used to make diesel fuel to run the machine. The active bamboo charcoal has a lot of uses in the industry such as water filter material, antibacterial material. Besides the uses as an industrial material, the active bamboo charcoal is also used to make ice cream. The active bamboo charcoal ice cream has strongly impressed the young thanks to its strange color, plain black.
Active bamboo charcoal
Uses of Bamboo in Agriculture: Bamboo has a positive effect on agriculture. It can prevent and reduce land erosion and runoff due to its widespread root system underground. Bamboo is also planted near the river because it is able to sustain the rivers banks. Bamboo stems are also used to make farming tools.
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Other than the lotus symbol in Vietnam, bamboo is considered to be a symbol of Vietnamese people. Bamboo plants do not grow separately, they often grow in clusters. This feature symbolizes the union spirit of the Vietnamese. Besides, the bamboo tree always stands and dies in the straight position, symbolizes the honesty, sincerity, and candor of Vietnamese people.
It can be said that bamboo is the symbol of the most outstanding qualities of the Vietnamese: solidarity, loyalty, patience, and undauntedness. It is the resilient virtue hidden in the elastic adaptability. Both bamboo and the Vietnamese have to endure the natural disasters as well as all variations, hurricanes and tragic history, to survive and develop.
In the Feng Shui, bamboo is one of the strong symbols of longevity, resilience to overcome all adversity. Not only that, bamboo is also a symbol of fortune, happiness, love, and prosperity.
Bamboo is a familiar material in Vietnamese folk literature. There is a variety of stories, poems mentioning bamboo.
Since childhood, Vietnamese children have been told several folk stories about bamboo such as Hundred-node Bamboo Tree. There was a gentle, healthy young man named Khoai who worked for a rich man. This rich man had promised that if Khoai worked hard in 3 years for him, he would let him marry his beautiful daughter.
Believing in that promise, Khoai tried to work hard and laboriously for the rich man family. However, 3 years later, the rich man went back on his previous promise and asked Khoai to conduct an impossible mission: finding a bamboo tree with 100 nodes. Couldn’t find that bamboo, Khoai cried and a Buddha appeared to help him. The Buddha asked Khoai to collect 100 separate bamboo nodes and taught him four magic words: “Khac nhap, khac xuat”, which means “Join together immediately, fell apart immediately”.
The story of Bamboo Tree with 100 nodes
Khoai came back to the meet the rich man and showed him the bamboo tree with 100 nodes. The rich man was so curious so he touched the magic bamboo. Surprisingly, his hands stuck to the bamboo tree due to Buddha’s magic. Until the rich man agreed to let Khoai marry his daughter, his hands could not be released. Finally, Khoai could marry the beautiful girl he loved.
Another famous legend related to the bamboo is about the Vietnamese legendary hero, Thanh Giong. Giong was a strange boy who could not speak or stand although he had reached 3 years old. But when he heard the news that his land was invaded by invaders he grew up quickly and immediately, to the surprise of his mom and neighbors. Then he got stronger and bamboo became his weapon against the invaders.
As bamboo is easily found in Vietnam, Vietnamese have created many applications of bamboo in casual life.
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