Bamboo is actually a type of grass that includes more than 1,000 species of these woody perennial plants. The many types of bamboo have many practical uses, from providing food for humans and animals to building homes and temples. Bamboo figures prominently in the creation myths of some cultures where it is native, giving it a diverse number of meanings.
The bamboo plant family evolved in tropical areas after the age of the dinosaurs 30 to 40 million years ago, making it a fairly new addition to the world's plants. Since humans came to inhabit areas where bamboo grows wild, they have relied on it for building materials and for food, both for themselves as well as for domesticated animals. One of the oldest known uses of bamboo as a building material occurred in Babylon, where an arch that dates back 2,000 years still stands.
In China, the bamboo plant indicates good luck and the wealth that can result from such luck. This connection might exist because bamboo grows very quickly and lives a long time. Other aspects of good luck with which bamboo is associated include peace, prosperity and general overall success. The practice of feng shui utilizes a plant known as lucky bamboo in interior design to bring good fortune to those who live in its presence: it is said to improve positive energy where it grows.
People in India associate bamboo with friendship. The type of bamboo known as lucky bamboo is sometimes called friendship bamboo because it is believed that it will generate and maintain deep and rewarding friendships.
Protection from Evil/Cultural Longevity
Entire forests of bamboo often surround Shinto shrines in Japan and are believed to offer protection from evil spirits. Often, Buddhist temples are also surrounded by bamboo. In Vietnam, the culture often revolves around bamboo and many villages have stands of bamboo growing around them. One of their common proverbs states, "When the bamboo is old, the bamboo sprouts appear," according to the web site OriginVietnam. This means that the country will never disappear, for when the elders die, children move up to take their place.
Significance of the Number of Stalks
Ancient Chinese traditions assign different meanings to the number of stalks on a bamboo plant. A single stalk imparts a meaningful and simple life; two stalks will bring happy relationships and luck in love; three will give happiness, prosperity and longevity; four contribute to creative endeavors, including academic success; eight will cause fertility; 21 stalks bestows a powerful blessing to the people who live where this plant grows.