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Giant plant, that belongs to the family of grasses and with the botanical name Bambusa vulgaris. With the exception of some species, such as Calcutta Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus), bamboo typically has a hollow stem, made up of jointed segments, often with a natural film of a fine, whitish powder-like substance, called nuan in Thai, on its surface. Its elongated leaves are of a glossy green to yellow colour, depending on the variety (fig.) and season. Its shoots (fig.), called no mai phai (หน่อไม้ไผ่) in Thai, are edible and its flexible timber is an important building material, especially in rural areas and among the hill tribes. Bamboo is the fastest growing of all plants on earth, with some species growing a whole meter in a single day and able to grow up to 30 meters tall. Since bamboo grows rapidly and has a very slow putrefaction process, it makes a very appropriate construction material in any humid environment and climate. Its hollow stem is used amongst others used to make huts, rafts, pipes for water supply, fences, etc. By splitting the cylindrical trunk it can be unfolded and used as to make floors (fig.), walls, mats, etc. This split, unfolded bamboo is in Thai known as reuak. Besides this, the separate compartments are very suitable to make all kinds of utensil, such as water and food containers, water pipes, animal fodder trough, etc. There are many different varieties, of which some are popular ornamental plants. In Chinese mythology bamboo is a symbol for longevity and the word in Chinese is homonym with another character meaning ‘to invoke, to pray to, to wish’ and ‘to express good wishes’. Because of this, as well as its durability, strength, flexibility and resilience, bamboo has hence become a Chinese symbol of longevity and can often be seen in Chinese art and architecture (fig.). Since it survives in the harshest conditions, staying green all year-round, it shows us that the secret of a long happy life is to go with the flow. In feng shui, it is suggested to put bamboo plants in the front of homes to assure its inhabitants a long life. The fact that Chinese was  traditionally written vertically, i.e. from top to bottom, is that prior to the invention of paper, books in Ancient China were written on strips of flattened bamboo that were joined together with thread into long rows that could be rolled up into cylinders and wrapped in cloth. Most bamboo plants flower infrequently, i.e. generally only once every couple of years and some species even at intervals as long as 120 years. As such, blooming bamboo (fig.) is an extremely rare sight. In Oriental iconography and art, bamboo is the symbol for summer and one of the Four Sacred Symbols. In Korea, common sea salt is roasted nine times in bamboo containers at high temperature to obtain jugyeom (죽염), i.e. ‘bamboo salt’ or purple salt, from which impurities are removed or neutralized while its inorganic contents are increased, making it more healthy than ordinary table salt. In Thai called phai and mai phai, as well as welu, and in Chinese known as zhu. See also TRAVEL PICTURES.