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Bamboo, a symbol of traditional Chinese values

Updated: 2011-01-19 15:57
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Bamboo and Bamboo Products

Bamboo basketwork was first invented by the Chinese people during the New Stone Age. Ancient people wore a large bamboo hat to protect them from rain and bamboo shoes to walk on muddy roads.

 Bamboo, a symbol of traditional Chinese values

Bamboo cloth was invented in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) and became a tribute to the emperors. With the development of the society and the progress in cultural life, there were an increasing variety of bamboo products including seats, such as bamboo chairs, bamboo stools and bamboo sofas; and sleeping furniture, such as bamboo deck chairs, bamboo beds, bamboo mats and bamboo pillows. Clothing was also made of bamboo, including bamboo hats and bamboo shoes. They also made decorations, including bamboo screens, bamboo curtains, bamboo vases and bamboo lanterns. As for containers, there are bamboo cupboards and bamboo cases; tableware, such as bamboo bowls and bamboo chopsticks; and writing materials, like bamboo brushes and bamboo pen containers. Farmers use bamboo tools like bamboo baskets, bamboo brooms and dustpans, and bamboo poles, as well as fishing tools, means of transport and many other daily necessities.

 Bamboo, a symbol of traditional Chinese values

People appreciate bamboo carving as one of the special handicrafts of China. This traditional art took shape in the Six Dynasties (222-589) and became popular during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The intelligent ancient Chinese not only made various daily necessities and tools for production with bamboo, but also engraved them with beautiful decorative patterns. Bamboo carvings cover a wide range of subjects such as images of Buddha, figures, flowers, animals, landscape and pavilions.

Bamboo and Food

Bamboo adds luster to Chinese food. The delicious and crispy bamboo shoot has won the people's favor since ancient times. In his beautiful prose Bamboo Shoot, Liang Shiqiu, a famous modern Chinese writer, vividly described the famous Beijing cuisines of "stewed shrimps and winter bamboo shoots" and "ham with stewed winter bamboo shoots”. People also use bamboo to make wine, which tastes mellow and savory.

 Bamboo, a symbol of traditional Chinese values

Bamboo can also be used as medicine. In his masterpiece Compendium of Materia Medica, the famous Ming-dynasty pharmacologist Li Shizhen recorded the great medical value of bamboo.

Bamboo and Scholars and Artists

The tall, straight and beautiful bamboo has been a favorite for Chinese scholars and artists since ancient times, who have sang high praises of its character. Bai Juyi, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty, compared bamboo to a "virtuous man" in his article. Zheng Banqiao, a celebrated Qing-dynasty painter and calligrapher, devoted his whole life to painting bamboo.

Many ancient scholars chose to live in seclusion in deep mountains surrounded by bamboo forests, where they drank wine, wrote poems or painted pictures while enjoying the beauty of nature. By leading such a simple life, they wanted to stay away from worldly affairs. Su Dongpo, a famous writer of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), wrote in his poem, "I would rather eat no meat than live without bamboo."

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