Life Lessons From The Spirit Of Bamboo

Bamboo in the wind painting, featured in M003: The Fundamentals of Chinese Floral Painting V3: Bamboo

The Essence of Bamboo is Strength Through Flexibility

Bamboo is surprisingly strong. It actually is stronger than steel with a tensile strength of 28,000 pound per square inch versus steel at 23,000. Interestingly enough Bamboo achieves this strength through flexibility. It allows itself to bend to avoid breaking. Upon closer examination we find that Bamboo bends easily and quite significantly yet still returns to its original shape. Steel on the other hand is rigid, refusing to bend and when it bends it is forever changed. Perhaps Superman had the wrong nickname but I guess "Man of Bamboo" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "Man of Steel."

In this email, I thought we'd discuss various types of flexibility and tie them back to the idea of strength.

Physical Flexibility

The idea of physical flexibility as a key aspect of strength is just recently becoming more accepted. With the explosion of popularity of yoga and pilates, it is becoming apparent that developing physical flexibility has tremendous benefits to your health and well being.

Brush painting can be a wonderful way to encourage physical flexibility. When you see master painters demonstrate you will often see them standing and "dancing" the brush with their full body. This is important in giving their stroke sufficient "chi" or energy/life force. A wonderful warm up practice is to stand up and move your body and dance your brush on a piece of magic paper. Alternatively, you can use ink and rice paper and see what you paint with this approach.

Relational Flexibility

Often times a lack of flexibility in relationships creates tremendous stress. While I am a big advocate of being clear about what you want and not compromising when it comes to the things that are really important, it is equally important to realize that what you want does not have to come at the expense of someone else. Often times this boils down to patience. The things you want can come to you easily without you having to convince or coerce anyone into doing something that they do not want to do. Once you develop the certainty that you can always get what you want, it is easy to be patient and avoid stressing or hurting those around you in an effort to get what you want.

This idea goes both ways. When you defer to someone else, it should always be done joyfully out of love. Always saying "yes" out of fear or habit is not flexibility. It is the rigidity that comes from robbing yourself of the ability to choose.

Flexibility in Beliefs

Most of us have lived long enough where we have experienced things that we passionately believed to be true and later turned out to be untrue. What I know about life is that no matter what your beliefs are, life has a tendency to serve up evidence that what you believe is true. That means two people can have opposite beliefs and both will experience evidence that each of their beliefs are true. Could it be that there are very few "absolute truths?" Could it be that one of the absolute truths is that life will serve you up experiences consistent with the beliefs that you hold?

If this is true, then what you believe is not really the important question. The important question is what do you want to experience? Then you should choose to think about things that are consistent with you getting the experience that you want. After all, beliefs are just thoughts that you think over and over again. The most miserable people that I have ever met had strong desires and also held strong beliefs that kept them away from their desires.

Remember the Idea is Strength

There is a certain personality type that will read writing like this and interpret it by being a "doormat" and allowing everyone to walk all over them at all times. This is NOT the point. Remember the idea is how can flexibility be an aspect of strength. The more clear you are about what you want, the more confident you are that you can achieve what you want, the more you are willing to be flexible and patient.

Bamboo always remembers what it's original shape is. It allows itself to bend, but when released it returns back to its original shape. The farther it bends, the more speed and power it demonstrates when it returns back to its original shape. Deferring to someone because you are assured of consideration is very different than giving up what you want out of fear or a lack of feeling deserving.

M003: Fundamentals of Chinese Floral Painting V3: Bamboo by Chow Su-sing

M003: $15
63 pages
8.25" wide x 10.75" tall

A popular book due to it's reasonable price and iconic subject. The author Chow breaks down the subject of bamboo in three major styles: Spontaneous Ink, Fineline, and Spontaneous color.The spontaneous ink style has the most content with instruction for rendering bamboo in many different weather conditions. There are examples showing how to represent bamboo in the sun, rain, wind, snow, and hanging downward.


Video Book Review for M003: Fundamentals of Chinese Floral Painting V3: Bamboo by Chow Su-sing

Limited Quantity of Small Biff Brushes Back in Stock

C4C: Small Biff Brush $17  more

The most recent revolution in brushes made available by OAS. Makes it easy to paint a perfect bamboo trunk every single time. So addictive and exciting to use! We have a small shipment of 23 in stock. 

Bamboo in Gong-bi Style Lesson Booklet

WSF0008: Bamboo in Gong-bi Style Lesson Booklet $8.50  more

Good fineline instruction is very difficult to find. Ling Chi and Ja-Shin have collaborated to make a gong-bi or fineline style lesson easy, accessible and effective. See how fun it is to bamboo in the fineline style.

Bamboo Accessories

These two elegant and useful bamboo accessories are the perfect additions to your painting space. We have a handsome bamboo paper cutter and a bamboo brush cup. The paper cutter is well made and very functional while the bamboo brush cup is great for holding brushes and is ready for you to decorate using acrylic paints.

BC: Bamboo Paper Cutter $6.50 more

ACBC01: Small Bamboo Brush Cup $7.00 more

Inspire Bamboo Booklet

Rather than instruction, this 6 page inspiration booklet takes beautiful examples of bamboo painting and interweaves them among facts, poetry, and philosophy that describes the cultural significance of Bamboo in Chinese culture.

WSIN001: Inspire Bamboo Booklet $12.95 more


Get Everything Featured and Receive our Inspire Bamboo Booklet for Free

For a limited time only, get everything featured in this email and receive our 6 page Inspire Bamboo Booklet for free. This is not the same as our regular gift lessons but features beautiful bamboo artwork interspersed between reminders of the cultural and philosophical significance of Bamboo in Chinese culture.

M003: Fundamentals of Chinese Floral Painting V3: Bamboo $15.00
C4C: Small BIFF Brush $17.00
BC: Bamboo Paper Cutter $6.50
ACBC01: Small Bamboo Brush Cup $7.00
WSIN001: Inspire Bamboo Booklet FREE GIFT

Artist improvementProduct feature


Evan - OAS

Evan - OAS

Thank you for taking the time to post such an encouraging comment. I am glad that you are enjoying the writings and that they are having their desired impact. Keep practicing and Happy Painting!



Thank you, Evan, for your recent brief writings on the many aspects of sumi-e. Your blend of philosophy, art techniques and life strategies are both authentic and helpful. Please continue to remind those of us struggling with brush painting of the powerful and spiritual meaning that brings life to brush paintings.

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