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Bamboo Folklore

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Bamboo is primarily grown and harvested in Asia, so it is not surprising that it makes an abundant appearance throughout Asian folklore. Here are two folktales that involve bamboo. They give bamboo an extra historical dimension that makes it a bit magical.

The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Japan)

In Japanese folklore, a man who had no children was cutting bamboo when he found a small child in one of the stalks. She was very small, and he took her home to raise her with his wife. From then on, every time he cut bamboo he would find gold within the stalk.

The girl grew into a beautiful woman and had multiple princes seeking out her hand in marriage. She did not want to marry, so she gave them each impossible tasks in order to win her hand. The men could not perform the tasks, and the Emperor of Japan became interested in the beautiful woman. She would not marry the emperor either, but they became friends.

Sometime later, people from the moon came to get the woman. She had been sent to Earth (for punishment or safety depending on how the story is told), and the gold given to her adoptive parents had been to care for the woman. Now, she had to return to the moon.

The Emperor was mortified, and he refused to ingest an immortality potion given to her by the woman. He ordered his servants to climb to the highest mountain and burn a letter that he had written in hopes that it would reach her via smoke.

The mountain is now known as Mt. Fuji. When the volcano was more active, it was said that the smoke rising from the mountain was the letter still burning.

The Hundred-knot Bamboo Tree (Vietnam)

A rich landowner was trying to encourage one of his workers to labor tirelessly, and so he said he would give him his daughter’s hand in marriage if he worked for a number of years. The man worked, but the landowner had no intentions of handing over his daughter. Instead, he promised her hand to another man.

The worker pleaded with the landowner to keep his promise and let him marry the daughter. The landowner thought he could manipulate the worker again, so he sent him on a quest. If he could find a shoot of bamboo that had one hundred knots, or segments, he could marry the daughter. The landowner knew this was impossible.

The man searched, and he was finally gifted a 100-segment stalk of bamboo by a deity. He was able to marry the girl. 

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