Onin Tsuba with full moon and bamboo shoot (takenoko) motif.
Iron and brass. Ten-zogan and sukashi technique. Late Muromachi period.
Diameter: 82.0 mm; Thickness: 3.5 mm
Cited from Merrily Baird. Symbols of Japan. Thematic motifs in art and design. Rizzoli international publications, Inc., 2001, p. 72:
“In Japanese art, the appearance of bamboo shoots is often without symbolic meaning. In other cases, however, the shoots are emblematic of Moso (Chinese: Meng Tsung/Meng Zong), a paragon of filial piety who dug through snow to find shoots for his mother. … especially in miniature art forms, let bamboo shoots alone speak for the full story.”
The full story is this (See THE TWENTY-FOUR PARAGONS OF FILIAL PIETY [ERSHISI XIAO]):
Tears That Brought Bamboo-shoots From the Frozen Earth: Meng Zong
Meng Zong lived during the Three Kingdoms Period of China’s past. His father died when he was young, and he and his mother struggled to survive. One winter his mother was stricken with a serious illness, and craved some bamboo-shoot broth as medicine. But in the depths of winter, with snow and ice blanketing the ground, where was anyone to find fresh bamboo shoots, shoots that emerge only in the warm months? Nonetheless, Meng Zong, to avoid disappointing his mother, bravely fetched his shovel and went out into the white landscape in search of bamboo shoots. In the thicket he found only frosted leaves and green stalks coated with snowflakes and ice. Look as he might, there were simply no fresh shoots growing in the winter. The thought of his poor mother lying sick on her bed, waiting for bamboo-broth medicine, made his heartache. Uncontrollably, tears began to fall in rivers to the ground beneath the tall, emerald canes. Even now, as his tears flowed down, he kept a light of faith in his heart. If he was truly sincere in his search, perhaps….
Just then Meng Zong nearly tripped and fell over a sharply protruding lump of earth. He quickly knelt down and knocked aside the dirt with his trembling fingers. How uncanny! Underneath his frozen hands he discovered a bed of fresh, tender bamboo shoots! Overjoyed, he gathered up a coatful and carried them back home. The broth that he quickly set stewing in the pot soon cured his mother’s illness.
The neighbors, hearing the story, exclaimed that it was the strength of his sincere, unselfish, filial resolve that inspired heaven and earth to respond, and to bring up, out of season, the fresh shoots that cured his mother’s disease. Before Meng Zong’s prayers generated this miracle, it was normally considered impossible for bamboo shoots to grow in the winter. After the nmiracle took place, however, people were able to gather and to eat bamboo shoots all year round. The winter variety that existed hereafter became known as “winter shoots.”
The villagers were deeply influenced by Meng Zong’s courage and devotion. They renamed the spot where the event took place, “Meng Zong’s Bamboo Grove”. We can now enjoy bamboo sprouts during the winter as well, and as we do so, it is fitting to recollect Meng Zong’s outstanding example of filial respect, and reflect on our conduct as sons and daughter of our parents.
A verse in his honor says,
His teardrops transformed winter at the roots;
Up from the ice crept tender bamboo shoots.
Instantly, the winter-sprouts matured;
Heaven’s will: a happy, peaceful world.