Bamboo activism

Going about in Taiwan, like other countries with an abundance of bamboo, it is inspiring to be amongst bamboo creations from the mundane to the extraordinary. This post is about a once-ordinary, now less common bamboo construction being used to promote autonomous rule for the Amis village of Farangaw, Taitung County.

bamboo boat, bamboo raftIn the south of Taiwan, a bamboo boat is under construction employing techniques unused since the Japanese occupation 100 years ago. The traditional techniques are recalled only in oral history by five Amis elders in their 70s and 80s. The maiden voyage of the bamboo vessel will be an inspection to lay claim to the village’s traditional maritime territories, as well as rally support more generally for Aboriginal autonomy in Taiwan.

The Amis are the largest ethnic group among Aboriginal Taiwanese. Traditionally, Amis villages are in close proximity to the sea. As well close ties to the ocean, bamboo features in Amis material and spiritual culture. One Amis spiritual practice is performed by bamboo divinators. The cikawasay (like priests) predict fortunes by standing on the middle of a slim bamboo branch and lifting both ends of it. The fortune is foretold according to the shape of the cracking gap in the bamboo.

bamboo pavilion, Amis autonomy

Considered experts in bamboo construction, local Amis built this pavilion used for an arts festival.

There is something of a resurgence in traditions and cultural identity for Taiwan’s Aboriginal population, though perhaps not bamboo divination. An increasing number of Amis are replacing their Chinese names with Amis names. Aboriginal political and social movements are swelling. Drafts of legislation for Aboriginal autonomy, already drawn out for years, are always strongly criticised by Aboriginal activist groups and academics. But what a behemoth they face in China.

bamboo raft, bamboo boatIn the course of researching this post I came across a boat in Taiwan based on the traditional design of a bamboo raft such as the one pictured above. Instead of using bamboo, huge PVC pipes were incorporated into the design. The pipes were bent the same way as bamboo – with heat. The vessels take only about six days to build. The story and more images here. Perhaps the Farangaw villagers should have considered PVC instead of bamboo: some were accused by local authorities of stealing bamboo to make the raft.

References and further reading:

Takesumi – bamboo charcoal

takesumi, bamboo charcoalContinuing with the Japan focus from the previous post, this post revisits bamboo charcoal with a particular focus on health. Takesumi is derived from carbonised bamboo and demonstrates the same remarkable adsorptive qualities. As a nutritional supplement takesumi is generally ingested for its detoxification properties, especially after exposure to environmental contaminates.

Claims are made that bamboo charcoal:

  • has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties;
  • emits far infrared rays (to improve circulation) and negative ions;
  • protects the body from EMF’s emitted by the electrical devices we surround ourselves with;
  • is a natural source of macro and trace minerals;
  • is alkalizing; and,
  • adsorbs myco and endotoxins, and radiation.

takesumi, bamboo charcoalThe adsorptive qualities of takesumi that provide the detox benefits are also exploited for extending the life of fresh produce and purifying drinking water. Healthy living blog, Japanese Wall also suggests that takesumi can “make wine more fragrant whilst removing its tartness, and also make tea tastier by reducing the acidity.”

takesumi, bamboo charcoalTakesumi-Power Bali recommends that her followers put some pieces of takesami in the water when cooking rice. “It will absorb chlorine, bad odor and toxic substances from water [and] the taste of the rice will be something you have never experienced before.” If the image is true, it won’t make your rice black. If you don’t find that appealing, there’s always takesumi candy, takesumi coffee, tea, or takesumi crackers (if you’re in Japan and can read Kanji).

takesumi, bamboo charcoal, kiln

The charcoal kiln at I’m Home B&B

Researching takesumi online also unearthed a rather idyllic looking B&B in New Zealand that makes takesumi. The Kyoto-expat owners describe takesumi as “mysterious bamboo charcoal.” The B&B property has its own charcoal kiln and they produce a very interesting-looking range of takesumi products, including powdered bamboo charcoal and bamboo leaf charcoal. Another use for bamboo charcoal that they suggest is as a dietary supplement for animals.

An Amazon search for takesumi yielded mostly fountain pen ink, and it’s not even clear if the black is from bamboo charcoal. eBay at least had one seller for takesumi. Do you have a friend in Japan?

References and further reading:

Everyday bamboo – Japan

toygirlBamboo is an integral part of material culture in Japan. Nearly everywhere you go in Japan you see examples of bamboo uses in the landscape, architecture, art, craft, kitchens, bathrooms, gardens… By turns beautiful, intricate, functional, and sometimes, just simplicity itself. This week I’m sharing a few examples of ultra-simple bamboo solutions for take away food, barriers, fencing, ritual cleansing, dividers, gates, borders … let’s start with toys. toy

Surely, this must be as simple as it gets to keep kids amused using bamboo. (Compare the bamboo toys on Amazon!) These were made at a school in Hachioji. The girl certainly looks very pleased with them. (Thanks, Chris). On a complexity scale, next may be the taketombo. Here’s a YouTube demo. Learn to make one here.

Near the entrance to temples in Japan, temizuya, or chōzubachi, often use bamboo as a means of keeping the water scoops in easy reach. This one is in Ueno Park, Tokyo. cleansing ritual, bamboo

At a Sunday flea market in Kyoto these bamboo skewers solve that pesky issue of the meat sliding around on a round skewer.

bamboo skewers

This ultra-simple barrier keeps the larger stones where they belong in the sublime gardens of Ōkōchi Sansō in Arashiyama.

bamboo barrier

bamboo fencesbamboo fencesFencing in Japan can be elaborate. It can also be minimal and uncomplicated. These fences act primary as barriers in temples in Kyoto and Arashiyama.

bamboo frameCross sections of large bamboo culms make an eye-catching wall divider in a Tokyo restaurant. (Thanks again, Chris). bamboo branch gateA few bamboo branches sandwiched and lashed with a couple of small bamboo poles vastly improves this otherwise ordinary gate in a temple in Kyoto.

Everyday bamboo shall continue…

Bamboo on the Internet for October, 2014 – my picks

  • bamboo camperFrom Zenbox Design: A lightweight bamboo-clad mini camper. Towed by a Mini Minor. With a skylight to see the stars at night. More images at Zenbox. The dog looks happy.
  • Bamboo yarn got a mention here recently. I hadn’t thought of it before, but bamboo yarn is not only soft and silky, it’s vegan too! The PETA blog assures us that no cruelty is committed by using bamboo yarn.
  • bamboo, birdwatching towerThe Nagaland Bamboo Development Agency constructed a bamboo bird watching tower near Doyang as part of a bamboo promotion campaign.

bamboo and plastic greenhouse

  • Green Building Elements this month featured a lightweight greenhouse built from plastic drink bottles and bamboo – architect designed, no less. This one is now in operation on a farm near Hanoi.

  • More awesome bamboo architecture in Vietnam. This 750-seat hotel restaurant in Son La uses a local bamboo called Luong that grows to 8 metres high.

SonLa restaurant96 bamboo column units composed of 4 bamboos together induce the vertical expression of the bamboo structure like bamboo forest.

The bamboo was treated in a traditional method by soaking in it mud and then smoking it. I highly recommend a viewing of the other images on the Arch Daily website.

Hong Kong’s Bamboo Theatre

bamboo theatre, bambooSince 2012, a huge bamboo theatre has sprung up each year in West Kowloon in time for the Chinese New Year period. The 800-seat theatres take only weeks to construct. The theatres are temporary structures designed by architects using both traditional and modern architectural design. Ten specialist bamboo craftsman use more than 10,000 bamboo poles to build the theatres.

bamboo theatre, bambooAccording the architect of the 2012 theatre, William Lim, the design of the bamboo theatre is based on what bamboo theatres looked like in the 1950s and ’60s. These were both stages for performances and venues for banquets. The bamboo theatres are usually erected without the aid of a detailed floor plan and construction generally involves lots of improvising.

bamboo theatre, bambooEach year the theatre provides a programme of extremely popular xiqu (Chinese opera) performances. In its first year, the five day festival sold out. The 2013 festival ran for three weeks and was the programme was expanded to include contemporary music and dance performances. Also, a handicraft and food fair was set up outside the theatre. The fair is laid out in such a way to help visitors appreciate the architecture of the bamboo theatre. In 2013, the fair alone attracted more than one hundred thousand people. The 2014 festival ran for one month.

bamboo theatre, xiqu centre

Under construction now is the new Xiqu Centre. The design was unanimously selected from a short-list of five by a jury panel. The Xiqu Centre will be part of the 40 hectare West Kowloon Cultural District. The precinct, built on reclaimed land, will also include 23 hectares of public open space, museums, art galleries, and exhibition centres.

References:

Bamboo Scaffolding in Hong Kong

bamboo scaffoldingThis article about the traditional art of bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong drew me to further research on the subject. Even the casual visitor, perhaps with no particular interest in bamboo, notices the bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong. A 2008 conference paper on the subject revealed some very interesting facts.

Hong Kong has a long-standing tradition of using bamboo scaffolding for construction, renovation, repair work and signage. Bamboo scaffolding remains popular for many reasons:

  • It’s 6–8 times faster to erect than a similar metal scaffold.
  • The cost of bamboo poles is about 6% of the cost of steel poles.
  • For Hong Kong, the bamboo is cultivated in neighbouring Guangxi province, and then transported to Hong Kong along the Pearl River by lashing the poles together and floating them downstream.
  • Depending on the type of scaffolding, bamboo poles can be reused three to five times.

bamboo scaffolding, scaffoldersThe art of bamboo scaffolding has traditionally been passed on generation to generation, or through a three-year apprenticeship, with little written information. Now, apprentices can learn the skill in a year through on-the-job training or by attending a Construction Industry Training Authority (CITA) training course. After working in the industry for four years, a scaffolder can take the CITA trade test. In 2006, 268 candidates took the test and only 62% passed.

There is a steady growth in the number of written regulations, guidelines, codes, conferences and publications about bamboo scaffolding. Despite all the training and skill of Hong Kong’s bamboo scaffolders, and the code and guidelines, it’s still a dangerous job:

  • The overall accident rate in Hong is around 60 in every 1000 workers.
  • Repair and maintenance projects account for the majority of the accidents.
  • Many of the accidents in truss-out bamboo scaffolds have resulted from failures of the support bracket anchor bolts NOT the bamboo.

Bamboo scaffolding also has a role in the current democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. Professional scaffolders are lending a hand with erecting barriers and protesters are getting very creative with methods for joining the poles to create barricades.

bamboo scaffolding

Amazon and eBay have a curious selection of items related to bamboo scaffolding. Mousepads?

References and further reading:

 

Fermented Bamboo Shoots

fresh bamboo shootsFermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that promote balance of intestinal flora. And they taste good. As a recent convert to fermenting, my next step in that adventure is fermented bamboo shoots. I’m just waiting for the bamboo to shoot.

The north-east of India, with the largest stock and diversity of bamboos in India, also has many different ways of preparing fermented bamboo shoots. Traditional methods of fermentation are often supplemented with more convenient materials.

fermentation, fermented bamboo shoots Mesu
Bamboo shoots are finely chopped and pressed into a green bamboo stem. The openings are covered tightly with bamboo leaves. Left to ferment under natural anaerobic conditions for 7-10 days. Eaten as a pickle.

Soibum
Thin slices of bamboo shoots are packed into a chamber, covered with plastic sheets and pressed with weights. The bottom of the chamber is perforated to allow for draining before being left to ferment for 6-12 months.

Soidon
Entire tips of bamboo shoots are submerged in water in an earthen pot. Liquid from a previous batch is used as a starter. Leaves from garcinia pedunculata (an acidic tropical fruit related to purple mangosteen) are often added for extra flavour. Soidon is eaten as a curry or a pickle.

fermentation, fermented bamboo shootsEkung
Chopped bamboo shoots are packed into bamboo baskets, covered with leaves and sealed. Heavy stones are used to press excess water from the ferment. The baskets are buried in a pit in the forest. Ekung is fermented for 1-3 months. Eaten raw or with cooked dishes.

Eup
Dry fermented bamboo shoots are prepared in a similar manner to Ekung. After the fermentation process, the bamboo shoots are dried in the sun for 5 – 10 days. Eup is eaten as a side dish.

The information here only covers broad methods of fermenting bamboo shoots in India. I’ll post again when I find the simple recipes I want try. Do you have any you’d like to share? In the meantime, I can highly recommend books on fermentation by Sandor Katz. There are heaps of other books about fermenting on Amazon and eBay, as well as a good range of fermenting crocks, to save you the trouble of digging a hole.

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