A Chinese Legend

Once upon a time, in the heart of the Western Kingdom, lay a beautiful garden. And there in the cool of the day was the Master of the Garden wont to walk. Of all the denizens of the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was a gracious and noble bamboo. Year after year, Bamboo grew yet more noble and gracious, conscious of his Master’s love and watchful delight, but modest, and gentle withal. And often, when Wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside his grave stateliness, to dance and play right merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance of the Garden which most delighted the Master’s heart.

Now upon a day, the Master himself drew near to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo, in a passion of adoration, bowed his great head to the ground in loving greeting. The Master spoke: “Bamboo, Bamboo, I would use thee.”

Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which he had been made, the day to which he had been growing hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and his destiny. His voice came low:

“Master, I am ready. Use me as thou wilt.”

“Bamboo ” — the Master ‘s voice was grave — “l would fain take thee and — cut thee down.”

A trembling of a great horror shook Bamboo. “Cut … me … down! Me … whom thou, Master, hast made the most beautiful in all thy garden … to cut me down! Ah, not that, not that. Use me for thy joy, 0 Master, but cut me not down.”

“Beloved Bamboo” — the Master’s voice grew graver still — “if I cut thee not down, I cannot use thee.”

The garden grew still. Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. There came a whisper:

“Master, if thou canst not use me but thou cut me down … then … do thy will and cut.”

“Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would … cut thy leaves and branches from thee also.”

“Master, Master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust; but wouldst thou take from me my leaves and branches also?”

“Bamboo, alas, if I cut them not away, I cannot use thee.” The sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away.

And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low.

“Master, cut away.”

“Bamboo, Bamboo, I would yet … cleave thee in twain and cut out thine heart, for if I cut not so, I cannot use thee.”

Then was Bamboo bowed to the ground.

“Master, Master … then cut and cleave.”

So did the Master of the Garden take Bamboo and cut him down and hack off his branches and strip off his leaves and cleave him in twin and cut out his heart. And lifting him gently, carried him to where was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then pulling one end of broken Bamboo in the spring and the other end into the water channel in his field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo. And the spring sang welcome and the clear sparkling waters raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo’s torn body into the wailing fields. Then the rice was planted, and the days went by, and the shoots grew and the harvest came.

In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility. For in his beauty he was life abundant, but in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his Master’s world.

from The Book of Songs, Waley (author unknown)

8 Responses to “A Chinese Legend”


  1. 1 Karinann May 3, 2010 at 19:52

    Gabriella,
    I loved this. may we all follow the example of the humble bamboo and allow our Master Gardener to strip and use us as He wills. Thanks for sharing this.
    God bless!

  2. 2 Wendell May 3, 2010 at 19:55

    This is a great little story, Gabriella.
    The “Gesta Romanorum” come to mind. This is a medieval collection of anecdotes, to which moral reflections are attached. The original object of the work seems to have been to provide preachers with a store of anecdotes with suitable moral applications. Each story has a heading referring to some virtue or vice (e.g. de dilectione); then comes the anecdote followed by the moralisatio.
    Though the title of the work suggests Roman history as the chief source of the stories, many of them are taken from later Latin or German chronicles, while several are Oriental in character. In estimating the wide influence that the “Gesta” had up to the eighteenth century it must be remembered that the collection proved a mine of anecdotes, not only for preachers, but for poets, from Chaucer, Lydgate, and Boccaccio down through Shakespeare to Schiller and Rossetti, so that many of these old stories are now enshrined in masterpieces of European literature.

  3. 3 Cinzia May 4, 2010 at 09:50

    Gabriella, I heard this not long ago by a priest during Mass. It was part of his homily.

    Being a bit “thick” I still don’t understand … if the priest recounted this story to the faithful at a Catholic Mass, did it mean that the bamboo was representing Jesus – who did his father’s will and died on the cross for the salvation of mankind? – or does it represent each human being suggesting that being like the bamboo is what each of us should aspire to?

    Or is there another moral to the story that I have missed?

    Please explain …. thanks!

  4. 4 Ruben Vidal May 4, 2010 at 18:58

    Hola, Cinzia, ¿Cómo estás?

    I suppose you can take it both ways. The bamboo could represent Jesus (especially the garden of olives episode) AND it could represent our “willing” submission to God. As I see it – it means that if we say yes to God, we may suffer and undergo painful things that we do not want but we accept ‘not my will but your will be done’ ..

    Satan’s fall and his on-going rebellion is a manifestation of his refusal to submit to God; he likewise tempts men to follow in his footsteps. This same spirit of rebellion is evident in Satan’s spokesmen, the false prophets, even to this day.

    I love the last sentence: “For in his beauty he was life abundant, but in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his Master’s world”.

    Cuidate mucho!

  5. 5 Cinzia May 5, 2010 at 10:20

    Hola Ruben!! Muchas gratias amigo por la explanation🙂

    Much appreciated.

    Heavenly Father, may Your will, not mine be done.

    A friend and very wise person once said to me to always remember these words: “Jesus my Saviour, you are in my heart and I am in your hands.”

    Buenos dias

  6. 6 Daily Grace May 5, 2010 at 22:22

    This is so inspiring! Dying to self is a continuous process and never an easy one, I am glad God is such a patient master!

  7. 7 riversongs May 10, 2010 at 19:32

    What a wonderful story! I enjoyed this so much. We can all take a lesson from the bamboo and allow ourselves to be used as The Master of the Garden wills. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story.


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