Bamboozled!

On July 13, 2011, in Featured China Stories, by Jack Li

What grows up to 100 cm (39 inches) per day and thrives in any climate? What can be used in every aspect of Chinese culture ranging from musical instruments to weaponry to textiles?  You guessed it: bamboo! Bamboo, the largest member of the grass family, is of great economic and cultural importance all across Asia, serving both as a food source and a versatile raw product. See this amazing plant in abundance! Book a China Flight today and sign up to join a Guilin Tour to see a province in Southern China with a fantastic natural landscape. Below is just a sampling of the ways in which bamboo is used in China:

Cuisine

It’s not only pandas that eat bamboo – the Giant Panda of China (among many other animals) voraciously consumes soft bamboo shoots, stems, and leaves – humans can, too! All parts of the bamboo plant are edible in some form to some creature. In China, bamboo can be found sliced and either fresh or canned at local supermarkets. Bamboo leaves are used as wrappers for steamed dumplings. A sweet wine called ulanzi can be fermented from the sap of young stalks. The empty hollow of large bamboo stalks can be used to compress tea leaves and produce Pu’er tea.

Some species of bamboo contain cyanide, a toxin that when ingested in large quantities will kill a human.

Construction

The earliest mention of bamboo being used in Chinese construction can be found in writings dating back to 960 CE which speak of a simple bamboo suspension bridge in Qian-Xian. Bamboo has long been used as scaffolding, a practice which persists in Hong Kong but has been banned in China for buildings over six stories tall. Today, a number of institutions view bamboo as an eco-friendly construction material for its sustainability advantages. Mainstream construction depots stock bamboo as an option for flooring, furniture, and entire house building.

Ornamentation

If you’re looking to decorate your home with bamboo, think again before buying that ornamental plant marked “lucky bamboo”! It is actually Dracaena sanderiana, an entirely unrelated member of the lily family often associated with Feng Shui.

Perhaps “lucky bamboo” is commonly sold in place of real bamboo because a contained bamboo plant is difficult to maintain. Even concrete and special HDPE plastic barriers are sometimes not able to contain its aggressive roots! Furthermore, within a few years, the plant will be well on its way to deterioration with fewer culms growing each year, the root mass depleting the soil of nutrients, and the leaves curling up and turning yellow.

Legends

In China, it is said that spotted bamboo was born of the tears of bereaved wives. Emperor Yao gave two of his daughters to the future Emperor Shun as a test of his ability to rule. Shun was able to run his household with two wives, thus passing Yao’s test and assuming the throne in place of Yao’s unworthy son. When Shun drowned in the Xiang River, his wives’ tears fell upon the bamboos there, creating spotted bamboo. The women later became goddesses.

If your curiosity hasn’t been satisfied yet, China Travels welcomes you to discover more about the beautiful Asian landscape for yourself. Journey to China today!

 

Jack Li
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