606. Bamboo

This stop is excerpted from Planting Edo, a field guide created in partnership with the Harvard Art Museums. The guide pairs Arboretum specimens with paintings from the Museums' exhibition Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection.


Phyllostachys aureosulcata

Accession 707 - 77*A

With its hardy resilience in the face of adverse conditions, bamboo came to symbolize one aspect of the ideal character of the scholar-gentleman in East Asia, along with the orchid, plum, and chrysanthemum or pine, which together made up the so-called four gentlemen of literati painting subjects.

In the painting Bamboo on a Stormy Day by Ikeno Taiga (1723–1776), a robust stalk laden with snow rises vertically, bisecting the painting and bending at the top along clusters of its leaves. The dramatic curve of the central bamboo stalk is probably the result of a strong, icy wind, suggested by the blue wash that fills the background. The pointy leaf tips visible at the bottom of the painting hint at a larger bamboo grove from which the three stalks emerge.

Ikeno Taiga, Bamboo on a Stormy Day, Japanese, Edo period, after 1759. Hanging scroll; ink and light color on paper. Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL42147.6. © President and Fellows of Harvard College.