Resilient, Graceful Bamboo Urns
by Maggie Thompson
Choosing an urn for a loved one is a thoughtful decision that involves both heart and mind. In addition to the appearance and functional qualities of an urn, it is also meaningful to consider the symbolism and source of the materials used, and the working conditions of the artisans making the urns. Bamboo urns invite interest in the culture of Vietnam where they are produced.
Why choose a bamboo cremation urn?
Bamboo cremation urns are particularly suitable for:
- one who identifies with the qualities of bamboo, such as resilience, strength, bravery, and solidarity
- one who identifies with Vietnam, through family relationships, travel, history, or general fascination with the country
- one who identifies as “green,” preferring a green burial with ecologically sustainable, renewable materials
- one who appreciates handmade urns that support local artisans
- one who seeks the aesthetic beauty of bamboo
Tall bamboo urns made by artisans
OneWorld Memorials has visited Vietnam and seen bamboo cremation urns in the making. Artisans work from single-family homes and in open areas, not on assembly lines in factories. A pleasant work environment and reliable income fosters happy workers.
Unique color patterns of bamboo are woven together by hand around a mold. Then they are lacquered for durability and sheen. Our Natural Bamboo Urn, Blue Bamboo Urn, and Red Tall Bamboo Urn are all beautiful examples of this skilled craft.
Practical qualities of bamboo urns include:
- Very strong and very light
- Can be engraved
- Inexpensive display urns
- Aesthetically pleasing – urns that don’t look like urns
- If not lacquered, bamboo is environmentally friendly and green
Bamboo – growth, use, and symbolism
Bamboo is technically a grass, not a wood.
- It is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and is the largest member of the grass family. Individual culms (stalks) emerge from the ground in their full adult diameter, and grow to their full height in a single growing season of 3-4 months. Then the pulpy wall of each culm slowly hardens. Bamboo is ready for harvest and suitable for use in construction in 3 to 7 years.
- When bamboo flowers or sprouts, its prime time for harvest has passed. A Vietnamese proverb says, “When the bamboo is old, the bamboo sprouts appear,” interpreted as meaning Vietnam will never be annihilated because when the older generation dies, the upcoming children are there to carry on.
The bamboo tree is a significant cultural symbol.
- The sturdy, straight, and tall trees represent the resilience, indomitability, and bravery of the Vietnamese people.
- As bamboo trees often grow in clusters with a robust vitality, they represent the complete unity of Vietnamese people and their perseverance and devotion to their homeland. Bamboo clusters have become identified as the emblem of Vietnam’s rural areas of peaceful agrarian villages.
- Vietnamese legendary hero, Saint Giong, grew up immediately and magically from the age of 3 because of his wish to liberate his land from invaders. He used a bamboo cane and bamboo trees as weapons.
Bamboo is plentiful, embedded in the everyday lives of Vietnamese people.
- In family life, bamboo is used to make furniture, flooring, and household items such as baskets, chopsticks, trays, tea scoops, lamps, plates, shelves, and even agricultural tools and cloth.
- In the musical arts, bamboo is used to make flutes and other traditional instruments.
- A famous bamboo stick dance called Mua Sap is well known in Vietnam. Participants hop between long bamboo sticks to the beat of the bamboo as it is tapped in rhythm against much longer sticks.
- Many beloved fairy tales for children involve bamboo trees.
- Honoring the beauty of the plant, bamboo is often a planned feature in garden and landscape designs.
- Bamboo has gained popularity as an ideal building material for the 21st century because it is environmentally friendly – renewable and sustainable. Also, it has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete, and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel.
- A most notable gem of bamboo architecture is the Wind and Water Café Dome, recipient of many international awards, designed by architect Vo Trong Nghia. Bamboo trees shape and decorate the dome. The tables, chairs, plates and lanterns are made of bamboo, as well. The incorporation of bamboo in the Wind and Water Café Dome and other architectural projects illustrates the skills and aesthetic sense of the Vietnamese people.
- The bamboo industry supports local people and empowers artisans, becoming essential in providing life-changing, sustainable income and economic thriving.
Beyond an urn’s function of holding ashes lies a rich layer of consideration, assuring the choice resonates with the essence of a loved one. A bamboo urn is a satisfying option, reflecting meaningful symbolism, environmental values, cultural appreciation, and artistic beauty.
Maggie Shopen Thompson, MFA, is a freelance writer and writing workshop facilitator in Montpelier, Vermont. She has had experience as a caregiver for her mother many years ago, and for her husband and daughter during their recent cancer treatments and recoveries. She is a contributing author/artist in Healing Art & Writing – using creativity to meet illness, curated and edited by Patricia Fontaine, published in August 2016.