Buddhist Grows Bamboo Garden on Former Military Land
In Buddhism, the nature of impermanence, not-self, interdependence, and inter-being are constant subjects of contemplation and meditation. Through the eyes of the Buddha, a Buddhist can “inter-be” with the world around them — with the sun, with the rain, and with plants and animals. As famed Buddhist ecologist, Thich Nhat Hanh, describes it, “we are all in a family, we are all children of the Earth.”
It is this philosophy — the desire to “inter-be” with his global family — that inspired Thich The Tuong to dedicate his life to saving rare bamboo species.
Tuong’s one-hectare bamboo garden is located on Son Tra mountain, a location that still shows the scares of American military presence. But, with Tuong’s hard work, peace now abounds among the bamboo groves, fishing pond, and stone installation. He has turned his garden, named Son Tra Tinh Vien (Son Tra Tranquil garden), into a haven for visitors and threatened species of bamboo.
“It has been a long and hard journey since I planted the first bamboo. I have loved gardening since I left my native village of Vy Da to enter religious life at a small pagoda in Con Hen in Hue,” said Tuong.
After a local farmer donated the land, the 48-year-old monk settled down on Son Tra and started looking after the garden. He wanted to continue with his religious work and preserve the bamboo gene at the same time. According to Tuong, the existence of the bamboo garden compliments his life as a Buddhist.
“Bamboo has inspired me to compose poems and literature, as well as lead a religious life. I have also created a tranquil corner in the garden for religious meditation,” he said.
Vietnam has experienced significant species loss in the past few decades. The number of endangered species has increased from 715 in 1992-1996, to 882 in 2005-2007. In 2008, nearly 900 species were threatened with extinction and at least 10 more vanished from Vietnam. Bamboo, often seen as a symbol of Vietnamese culture, is no exception. Many bamboo forests have been over-exploited or destroyed leading to a significant species loss.
This presents, not only a problem to the bamboo, but to all the species that inter-be with the evergreen plant.
“Bamboo also plays a role in biodiversity, along with other plants. It is a source of food for animals in the forest. Bamboo can slow down heavy floods in river heads and smooth downstream flows,” said Nguyen Thi Tinh, a biologist from the Frankfurt Zoological Society of Germany. She also said that bamboo is a symbol of the vitality and power of Vietnamese culture and people.
Tuong’s cultivation of a species so vital to the health of Vietnam’s wildlife, the stability of its landscape, and the spirit of its people is a precious gift to the global community. Because of his work, rare species of bamboo will be saved from easy-money farming and urban development. In fact, four bamboo species that are considered extinct in Vietnam are actually thriving in his garden.
But Tuong’s story hasn’t ended yet. The city has plans to convert his garden into a tourist resort.
“I had proposed better alternatives for the bamboo conservatory, but the city’s departments or agencies are yet to respond,” he said.
Hopefully, the city will see what a rare gift it has in Tuong and his Son Tra Tranquil Garden. And if it doesn’t … well, that’s one resort I will NEVER want to visit.
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