Tag Archives: China

Bamboo as Oracle

bamboo fortune sticksThe Jakarta Post, Australia’s most reliable source of information about the fate of asylum seekers trying to reach Australia, recently posted an article about bamboo sticks for fortune telling. The oracle has Chinese origins and is very popular at Buddhist temples around Asia.

The equipment for the oracle is usually set up to one side in a temple. There are three main components:

  1. A long cylindrical cup, or a tube with one open end, often bamboo.
  2. The tube contains some flat sticks, usually made of bamboo. These sticks will have a number on them. In the Eastern tradition there will be 100 sticks.
  3. Nearby you should see pieces of paper with the 100 written oracle outcomes that correspond with the numbers on the sticks.

bamboo fortune sticksHolding the question you want answered in your mind, shake the tube with the sticks while holding the tube at a slight downward angle. One stick will fall out (usually). The number on the stick will give you your answer.

The detail of the ritual varies from country to country. In Indonesia, if you read the article, it is quite complex. My most recent experience with the oracle was at the Sensō-ji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest temple. I drew number 62, Excellent Fortune.

bamboo fortune sticks

 I suspect that for hosted foreigners (like myself on this occasion – Thanks, Megumi!) indulging in the oracle, things are much simplified. At large temples that have lots of foreign visitors, the oracles may be found with translations into English and other major languages. There are of course, Western home-versions of the oracle. These are in English and will probably only contain 78 sticks – or less. Garbagefinds found a set of bamboo sticks in a bamboo tube, but with only 38 sticks. I’m not surprised someone threw them out – only 38!

If you would like try the bamboo stick oracle, without a trip to
Asia, you will find sets of fortune sticks on Amazon and eBay au., or there is even a free online version.

Was my oracle accurate? Of course.
Do you indulge in local fortune telling while travelling?

Bamboo on the Internet for January 2014 – my picks

bamboo portable laptop deskCult of Mac reviews the bamboo AirDesk – A laptop tray/portable laptop desk with a mouse pad, and slot for your iPhone or iPad mini. And its available on Amazon.  Why only Macs?

The AirDesk would match the very stylish Chisel iPhone dock. Reviewed by Into Mobile and available for iPhone 4 and 5 on Amazon. Sigh (why only Macs?).

No such thing as organic bamboo fabric? This reminds me to further investigate bamboo textiles.

gucci bamboo heelsDid you like the Gucci bags with bamboo handles featured in the September version of this post? Now you can get bamboo heels to match. At A$650 a pair, much less expensive than the bag. Fashion Foie Gras described them as ” rather conservative and definitely have a party going on there from the back.”

The ever-increasing demand for PVC plastic kites is sounding a death knell for the craft of handmade kites in Hyderabad, India, according to the The Hindu.

bamboo2,500 bamboo strips dating from 305 BC, unearthed from an illegal tomb excavation in China, were donated to, and restored by, the Tsinghua University in Beijing. 21 of the strips are an elaborate multiplication matrix.

bambooMore innovative architecture from Designboom: bamboo sleeping units for an orphanage near the Thai-Burmese border. For more images and details, click on the image.

Still more from Designboom: Tranquillity in the heart of a metropolis. No, it’s not made of bamboo, rather, bamboo provides shade and shadow-play in an otherwise linear building. yutaka-kawahara-kaikouin-nenbutsudo-temple-designboom-44

More tranquillity (secular). (And more Designboom) What particular architectural elements achieve serenity for this cafe in Vietnam? Water? Bamboo? The curves? bamboo

Bamboo for carbon sequestration

bamboo carbon sequestrationAt first blush, growing plantations of bamboo to sequester carbon dioxide for climate change mitigation seems like a very practical idea. Bamboo grows rapidly; it stores large amounts of carbon; the leaf litter contributes to carbon storage in the soil; and products from harvested bamboo still store carbon.

Of course, nothing is simple and there is some controversy surrounding the use of bamboo for carbon sequestration. One sticking point is the short life span of bamboo. Liese maintains that bamboo doesn’t live long enough to be effective as carbon sink. When the bamboo dies naturally, is burnt, or decomposes, the carbon is released. Natural decomposition is further increased by the gregarious flowering phenomenon.1

While it is established that bamboo does not sequesterbamboo carbon sequestration more carbon than any other tree species, and the underground rhizome is no larger than the root systems found in woody trees,2 bamboos can sequester more carbon when they are regularly managed and harvested.3,4

Even when bamboo is harvested and used to make things, key to establishing how long carbon can be stored is the durability of products made with it. Untreated bamboo is very vulnerable to attack and destruction from insects and fungi. Treated bamboo however, such as bamboo used to make houses, floorboards, and roofing are much more durable and a long life could be reasonably expected.

Düking suggests that carbon storage in bamboo can be approached in one of three ways: “(1) carbon storage in the ecosystem of a bamboo stand, (2) carbon storage in bamboo products, or, (3) sustainable bamboo stands as protection of old natural forests”.This, of course, presents particular challenges in carbon accounting.

bamboo carbon sequestrationCalculating the amount of carbon sequestered in bamboo bio-mass was a sticking point in the development of bamboo forests for carbon sequestration, until recently. An accounting method specifically for bamboo was developed by INBAR and a Chinese partner. This methodology is now approved in China and Chinese companies can now buy carbon offsets from local bamboo plantations.

In a future post, I plan to explore this topic further. Do you have any experience with bamboo carbon sequestration?


  1. Liese, W. (2009): Carbon fixation by bamboo: fact or fiction. In: Proceedings of the 8th World Bamboo Congress, Bangkok, 2009 Sept. 16 – 19, Vol (3), 71- 77.
  2. Midmore, D.J. (2009): Bamboo in the global and Australian contexts. In: Proceedings of Workshop “Silvicultural management of bamboo in the Philippines and Australia for shoots and timber”, ACIAR, pp14.
  3. INBAR. http://www.inbar.int/2012/11/bamboo-a-new-approach-to-carbon-credits-2/
  4.  Kuehl, Y., Li, Y., & Henley, G. (2013). Impacts of selective harvest on the carbon sequestration potential in Moso bamboo (Phyllostachys pubescens) plantations. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods22(1), 1-18.
  5.  Düking, R., Gielis, J., & Liese, W. (2011). Carbon flux and carbon stock in a bamboo stand and their relevance for mitigating climate change. J Am Bamboo Soc24(1), 1-7.

Bamboo on the Internet for September

A compilation of posts on the Internet about bamboo from Google Alerts in September:

River rafting• Inspired by the La Balsas rafts, the Shearwater Steiner School in northern NSW made a bamboo raft and took a trip. If this looks tempting, you might like to try it in Borneo. Insect repellent tops the list of things to bring for this trip.

• Like the look of bamboo but worry about it invading? Try artificial bamboo. Follow the links for pictures.

Bamboo house

Bamboo house

• Online architecture and design magazine Dezeen featured a prototype bamboo house in Vietnam designed to withstand floods up to three metres above ground. From there I followed links to posts about the stunning Wind and Water Bar and more light and spacious low-cost bamboo housing. Continue reading