Trinitarian Bamboo

I feel like my life is tuned into the China channel right now.  Many events in my life are conspiring against me to make me more informed about this country and this people.

For one, I’m in a highly unusual reading rut at the moment.  China keeps popping up everywhere.  One book group is reading Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife this month, so I’m learning a lot about a Chinese-American woman’s domestic life, especially around WWII.  In another book club (yes, I have more than one), we just finished reading Snowflower and the Secret Fan, which is about a Chinese woman’s life at the turn of the 19th century.  There’s a lot in there about foot binding, and plenty of other information to make me happy that I’m living in this century, in this country.

Then, the Dali Lama comes to Seattle for a couple days, and the newpapers are plastered with news about him and the protests about China and Tibet.  So, now I’m looking up and reading lots of information on who he is, what he believes, and why people are so riled up right now about China and Tibet.

On top of that, my sister just bought her very first home.  I wanted to get her a housewarming present, so I went to IKEA and purchased her some decorative bamboo.  It seemed like a hip addition to her stylish new condo, and she’d mentioned that she’d liked the stuff. 

I didn’t realize how many choices went into purchasing bamboo, which is sold as “lucky bamboo.”  You can choose curly or straight.  There’s various containers in which to place it.  But, most importantly, you have to figure out how many stalks of bamboo to purchase because it apparently brings different luck to the household. 

The sign told me that 3 pieces of bamboo would bring the home happiness.  Five pieces would bring good health.  Something like 21 pieces would bring what sounded like Bliss.  “Why can’t only one bring Bliss?” I mused.

As I read the large sign that informed me about the different types of luck I could purchase, I thought back to The Kichen God’s Wife and the Snowflower and the Secret Fan, how luck was such a key ingredient to these people’s lives.  The women spent great deals of money to change their luck or to convince fortune tellers to change it for them.  At funerals, the mourners would eat “lucky candy” to ward off evil spirits.  They lived lives in fear of a negative change in their luck, due to a social misstep.

“If I buy the wrong amount of bamboo, will I give my sister bad luck?” I wondered to myself. 

Here I was, an American with no Buddhist ties, worried about bringing my sister bad luck with a decorative plant.  I think I let these ideas get the better of me.

Standing in front of the bamboo display, I decided, then and there, that luck wouldn’t rule my decisions.  I don’t have an impersonal universe dictating my fate.  I have a personal God who loves me and wants what’s best for me. He listens to me at any moment of any day.  I don’t have to pay him bribe money or follow silly rules.  I just have to love him and trust him. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17).  (Yes, it’s a memory verse). 

So, I bought 3 pieces of bamboo, to represent the trinitarian God that I love. And, if Ellen happens to host a Chinese person, versed in feng shui, at her home, she won’t be embarrassed to have a 3 stalk bamboo decoration that signifies happiness. 

Afterall, three is a great number for happiness.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I enjoyed your post….and your main point is, of course, wonderfully true!

    China is a fascinating place; I seem to have read many novels over the years about Chinese characters and life…including Amy Tan of course. I just finished Snow Flower last month….I’ve never before read so much in such detail about foot binding…yikes! It was an education. I’d be curious to know your overall impression of the book. I found it very interesting, but to me it seemed to skim past a lot of things (at least, in contrast to the foot binding).

  2. I read that a secondary day-time biting mosquito called a tiger mosquito was imported into our area via the lucky bamboo trade. I scowl every time I see a lucky bamboo in any number or configuration, and instinctively begin to feel a need to itch.

  3. I’m glad you’ve come to a “Biblical” conclusion in your bamboo selection. Myself being of Chinese descent, as well as a Christian, have tried hard not to follow and have avoided many superstitous traditions that I’m afraid may not be pleasing to God…Feng Shui is definitely one of them. I’m afraid to say, my faith and my “cultural heritage” are not very compatible at times. But when I compare the supremacy of our Creator God and man-made traditions, it’s not hard to know what to choose.

    AL: Thanks so much for stopping by Arti! Welcome dear brother in Christ! I love getting your perspective on this issue! I can imagine that there’s all sorts of decisions to be made when it comes to honoring your culture while also honoring God. All of us make these decisions, no matter what culture we’re from, but sometimes, I think the Chinese cultural traditions are even more wrapped up in faith. I’m so happy that you’re fighting the good fight and choosing Christ through it all. Stay strong brother!

  4. Amy: Let’s just say, you’ve got a sister in Christ here. I chose the nickname ‘Arti’ as a short form of “Artemis”, the Greek form of my real name. Regardless, it’s the term “in Christ” that’s most important here.

    AL: LOL! So sorry! 1,000 pardons Arti! I should have certainly figured that out from your reading list (it was a bit feminine! No wonder I liked so many of your books!).

  5. If you are interested in continuing your Chinese lit phase – I really enjoyed Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie. It is a short but great book that takes place during the cultural revolution in China in the 60’s.
    Enjoyed your thoughts on good/bad luck!

    AL: Never heard of that book! I’ll have to check it out! Thanks! You know what I like…book recommendations!


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