Tag Archives: China

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:

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:

 

Bamboo on the Internet for August, 2014 – my picks

Date Claimers for September

bamboo sculptureThere are two important bamboo events on the east coast of Australia next month. One I’ve mentioned before is the bamboo sculpture competition in the delightful northern NSW town of Mullumbimby. 6-7 September at the Mullumbimby Community Gardens. The Echo recently ran a story on the competition. Maybe I’ll see you there.

bamboo events, Big Australian Bamboo Annual EventTwo weeks later, in Bellingen, on the mid north coast of NSW, is the Big Australian Bamboo Annual Event. The program offers workshops, tours, and social events in beautiful Bellingen. You could learn some new construction techniques, more about maintaining and propagating bamboo, and attend the social events.

Other notable posts about bamboo for the month:

  • library-cardBamboo library cards – for that extremely rare entity, the well-funded library. Although the library says they are only slightly more expensive than plastic cards. Perhaps we could all make the suggestion to our libraries and institutions that are keen to demonstrate their green credentials.
  • You’re probably already aware of bamboo knitting needles and bamboo crochet hooks, but what about bamboo yarn? The Craftsy blog published a post this month extolling the virtues of bamboo yarn. Amazon has a range of bamboo yarn. Some is viscose made from bamboo, and some are blends of bamboo and silk or bamboo and cotton. eBay au has quite a different range of bamboo yarn, including some bamboo-wool blends (Australian Marino, of course). If the bamboo knitting needles or crochet hooks you want on Amazon will not ship to Australia, eBay have some too.

bamboo construction, Neelam Manjunath

          • Indian architect Neelam Namjunath is a strong advocate for the use of bamboo in construction. Read more about her work and philosophy here.childcentre
          • More bamboo architecture:  DesignBoom featured a childhood centre in Columbia emphasising bamboo…

“…as a way of re-valuing local traditions in a contemporary manner [that] speaks of the need to use local elements as well as preserve the nearby riverbeds.”

There’s more interior and exterior photos, and a walk-through video clip on the DesignBoom website.

bamboo beer

  • More bamboo beer: A young Mexican entrepreneur, recipient of a Chinese Ministry of Commerce scholarship, returned from his 2 months in China with the idea to brew beer from bamboo. The beer is described as “a brown Ale beer (highly fermented), refreshing, spicy, fruity and herbal final flavour, with six degrees of alcohol and a thick foam.” Read more here.

Bamboo on the Internet for May 2014 – my picks

bamboo sculptureA bamboo art installation that you can climb on at the Israel Museum. It’s called 5,000 Arms to Hold You. Professional rock climbers were engaged to build it. While it is under construction there is a live webcam.

  • A competition (open to US and Canadian residents only AND since expired) alerted me to the existence of bamboo easels and bamboo easel boxes. There’s quite a range on Amazon and eBay au.

bamboo kiosk cambodia

  • Two items from designboom.com are noteworthy for us this month: a kiosk for a bear rescue centre in Cambodia and bamboo plants inside an office in Shanghai. The kiosk supports the work of the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The park gets about 250,000 visitors annually. Their work combats the illegal trade in live bears and provides a safe sanctuary for rescued bears.

living bamboo office divider

  • Living bamboo is incorporated into the meandering central island of an open-plan office in Shanghai. The stands of bamboo, in large planters, create soft and unusual desk and room dividers. The central island, somewhat sadly, is made from timber. I’m sure the whole thing would have looked far superior had the architects chosen bamboo instead.

 

  • Bamboo salt update: A recent study has established that 9X Bamboo Salt probably prevents obesity in mice. Although, in the experiment, the researchers first unnaturally induced obesity in the mice. Still, this gives some people hope that the same result is possible for people. The (refereed) journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published the research. The numerous other health benefits of 9X bamboo salt still stand. See a previous post for more about that.
  • bamboo leaves, zongzi, dumplings, dragon boat festivalA note from The Star online tells us that the dried ingredients for making dumplings for the Duan Wu festival cost more this year. This includes, of course, the dried bamboo leaf that wrap the dumplings. The dumplings, zongzi, are an important part of the annual Duan Wu celebration (dragon boat festival).  Why they are important is a matter of conjecture. The Star says it “originated from a practice to commemorate poet Qu Yuan, who drowned himself to protest against corrupt practices in China about 1,000 years ago. Back then, the local folk threw rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves into the river to prevent his remains from being eaten by fish.”  Here is a recipe if you need to practice for your local zongzi making competitions next year, like this one in Taichung, Taiwan:


Sources:

Park, K. Y., Ju, J. H., Song, J. L., & Moon, S. H. (2014). Anti-obesity effect of bamboo salt on diet-induced obesity in C57BL/6 mice (811.12). The FASEB Journal28(1 Supplement), 811-12.

Bamboo in Acupuncture

bamboo stripsBack in December, some bamboo strips got a mention in a post on this site. The post touched on medical texts written on bamboo slips that were unearthed during the construction of a subway in Chengdu, China. More details have since emerged.

It turns out that the 2,000 year old bamboo strips are mainly texts about diagnosing disease by taking the patient’s pulse. This practice, commonly known as the 29 Pulses, is still used today. My local acupuncture practitioners certainly use it (and to good effect). Amazon has an extensive range of books on the subject, if you’d like to learn more.

Pulse diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine can provide very detailed information on the state of the internal organs and, indeed, every part of the body. Taking the pulses is one method that an acupuncturist, who is trained in the practice, may use to determine which points to treat with their acupuncture needles.

Some of the very early acupuncture needles are thought to have been made of bamboo too: a far cry from what we see, and hardly feel, today. Modern, stainless steel, acupuncture needles are very thin, ranging from 0.16 mm to 0.38 mm in thickness. The tip of a modern acupuncture needle is conical in shape, which allows it to penetrate the tissues, separating the fibres of the muscle as it enters, without causing damage. A bamboo needle might induce a less subtle sensation. (Just the thought makes me wince).

bamboo stripsAs an aside, the fascination with bamboo strips extends beyond academia. You can find bamboo strips for The Sims 3, also mentioned in a previous post. Noiranddarksims is offering a Bamboo Slip Conversion as the latest in Decorative Objects. I must confess though, I don’t get it. Can someone please explain?

Sources:

 

Bamboo on the Internet for March 2014 – my picks

bamboo pplanterBamboo urinal: a self-contained and somewhat mobile, eco-friendly public urinal. The unit has three main components; planter module (with the growing bamboo); the water tank; and, the urinal and sink. One pees in the urinal (women can use a disposable funnel to achieve this). Once done, a foot pump draws water from the water tank for hand washing and urinal rinsing. The used water is pumped into the planter module/biofilter, where the bamboo is growing in a medium of rocks, wood chips and styrofoam. The water, nitrogen and phosphorous are used by the bamboo, while bacteria living in the growing medium break down carbohydrates and protein. There is reportedly little if any smell. A prototype was tested in a San Francisco neighbourhood and stood up to use by over 300 people within an 8 hour period, says Gizmag

bamboo housing

Bamboo shelters inside abandoned factory buildings is one solution for the housing shortage in Hong Kong offered by architects from AFFECT T. These are positively spacious compared to other barely-affordable options for Hong Kong’s poor workers. 

More for bamboo sticks, these ones more high-tech: Bamboo ski poles and bamboo skis. As a resident of the wet tropics, I rarely get to see snow, let alone play in it. You will find a review of new bamboo skis here. They look gorgeous. Mobile art? Some of them are available on Amazon. Alternatively, there are some very interesting looking vintage bamboo skis and ski poles on eBay au.

bamboo organThe Saint Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas, The Phillipinesis now a designated National Treasure. The church is home to a famous bamboo organ, already a National Cultural Treasure. Pipe organ buffs will already be familiar with this historic instrument. People write books about it, write music for it, and record music played on it. There is a small book
and music selection on Amazon, and eBay au has a few records and CDs. If you’re too curious to hear the bamboo organ and can’t wait, here’s a YouTube clip for you:

 

Democratising Bamboo

The International Bamboo Conclave is on this weekend (22-23 Feb, 2014). Lucky you if you’re in Bangalore (India). Head out to the University of Agricultural Sciences.


The gathering provides a forum to promote bamboo for integrated development. There are technical sessions and an exhibition of products. Experts have gathered to discuss policy issues, innovative technologies, its use in buildings, furniture, handicrafts and other cottage industries, skill development in the bamboo sector, and global trends.

India is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world, next to China. India has 128 bamboo species belonging to 18 genera. They make up 12.8 per cent of the total forest area in India.

democratic bambooThe conclave brings to light why growing bamboo makes socio-economic sense. Architect and member of the Bamboo Society of India, Neelam Manjunath says “housing for the poor should be seriously thought over, as bamboo can be the best substitute to concrete. It can replace 70 per cent of steel and wood used in construction, and bring down the costs by nearly 40 per cent.”

For all the potential benefits, India lags in utilising bamboo. Apparently it all started with the British calling it the ‘poor man’s timber.’ Current government policies are not helping either. Bamboo is classified as timber in many states and permits are needed to harvest it. The Indian Forest Act effectively provides the forest department a monopoly over bamboo and creates opportunities for corruption and harassment.

Bamboo has the potential to generate economic wealth – sustainable and equitable development. Imagine if bamboo was put in the hands of the local people? To grow, to harvest and to add value? People determining and influencing their own future? Sounds democratic to me. What do you think?

Sources: