Painting ink renditions of bamboo was a subtle way in which an educated gentleman could demonstrate his calligraphic prowess, and thus his cultural refinement. By using the same media--brush, ink and paper--and the same technique as calligraphy, the painting is meant to be appreciated as much for its fluent brushwork than its resemblance to the plant.
Bamboo also embodies the virtues of the ideal Confucian gentleman. Evergreen, it symbolized perseverance under harsh conditions. Supple, it is able to bend in the wind without breaking. Hollow, it represented modesty.