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Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This blog is named after the four symbolic plants of Asia:

BETEL - Known as 'sirih' in Malay and 'paan' in Hindi and Bengali. The leaves of the Betel vine is chewed with slivers of Areca nut with a dash of white lime. The Betel leaf and the Areca nut has been associated with marriage and friendship throughout the Tropical Monsoon lands of Asia; from India all the way to Vietnam and the Philippines! In the past, a marriage proposal in these countries must always be accompanied by a tray of betel quids.

According to Mabel Cook Cole, a Philippina folklorist: 'The betel-nut is the nut of the areca palm. It is prepared for chewing by being cut into quarters, each piece being wrapped in betel-leaf spread with lime. It produces a blood-red spittle which greatly discolors the teeth and lips, and it is used extensively throughout the Philippines. While it appears to have been in common use among the Tinguian at the time these stories originated, it has now been displaced by tobacco, except at ceremonies when it is prepared for chewing; it is also placed on the animals offered for sacrifice to the spirits. Throughout the tales great significance is given to the chewing of betel-nuts before names are told or introductions given, while from the quids and spittle it appears to have been possible to foretell events and establish relationships.

BANYAN - This is the tree most favored by the Buddha as a resting place and is believed to be blessed. The Banyan tree, also known as the Bodhi, is found all over Asia and is believed by many to harbor benevolent tree spirits. The Banyan and the Sacred Fig are revered by Buddhists.

BASIL - The Asian Basil is also known as Holy Basil (Tulsi) and is the plant most favored by Vishnu; any offerings to Vishnu must include a sprig of Tulsi. Holy Basil also plays an important role in Buddhist rites as the Buddha is believed to be an avatar of Vishnu. The leaves of the Holy Basil is also widely used in cooking in Thailand and Myanmar.

BAMBOO - Bamboo is one of the four noble plants in Chinese culture and is thought to represent the quality of endurance and steadfastness. The Bamboo is important in both a symbolic as well as practical way. The beautiful plant appears in many paintings and as decoration in art and household objects. The stem of the bamboo is also important for making furniture, household items and even musical instruments. The Bamboo plants only flowers once in its lifetime of about 50 years and dies immediately after that.