Japanese artists as well as Chinese have repeatedly found inspiration in the study of the bamboo plant. Hiroshigi, one of the greatest of the landscape artists of Japan, creator of many of the best-known wood-block prints, has immortalized it in his picture of bamboos in a typhoon. Coolies running down the green hillside; chair-bearers bowing before the wind; long lines of gray rain and the slender shadowy wind-tossed stems lightly dancing before the gale! He who would see these graceful grasses at their best must visit a mountain grove on a windy spring morning. They whirl and sway like dancers that have abandoned themselves to a frenzied rhythm. Light flashes from every smooth leaf as from a mirror until the hill seems covered with a twinkling sheen of silver.
One looks through a maze of green and gray, many-jointed stems to a sheltered spot where yellow azaleas glow like “echoed sunlight” among ferns and granite boulders. The bamboo is beautiful, too, when fogs boil up from the valleys like steam from a giant’s cauldron. On such days they have the charm of “beauty half-revealed.” One instant they are hidden in veils of mist, the next they stand out clearly in the rain-washed mountain air as the last shreds of fog glide away through their branches. Every smooth stem shines as if polished; every leaf is tipped with a globule of water until a passing breeze sends a miniature shower in all directions.
The most amazing thing about bamboo is its manner of growth. Its sprouts outdo the proverbial mushroom in the way they appear overnight and then continue to climb upward without regard for speed limits. The new spikes push their way through the clods and appear among the old culms like dozens of bayonets, well covered with dark-brown mottled sheaths. No joints are visible at first; nothing but bristling points, aggressive and ready to race with all competitors for a place in the sun. Nodes soon appear and as the stems lengthen the downy sheaths drop off, leaving the smooth green culms covered with white bloom like the bloom of a peach.
Being curious to know just how fast the shoots really grew, I appointed myself referee when the spikes appeared. Each day at noon I measured certain ones to see what progress had been made in twenty-four hours. The favorite stood close to the garden wall. When first measured it was eleven inches high. Forty-eight hours later it touched the stick at the twenty-seven inch mark. When nine days old it reached a height of seven feet, its average growth per day for six days being more than nine inches. Not until it had reached its full height, two weeks later, did the leaf sheaths appear. At this time it was at its ugly duckling stage, for the pointed sheaths reminded one of the pinfeathers of young birds. The green leaves soon burst out, however, and the plant became a soft plume.