As part of our theme research and experience, we visited a small village right outside of Hangzhou, known as Baizhang village. Surrounded by massive mountains, the atmosphere there was totally different from that of Hangzhou. Life here is totally different too, with the average age at about 60 years old, the town goes dark and quiet as soon as the sunsets. Walking around the streets at night could easily give you the creeps. But in the morning, as soon as the sun rises at 4 am, you could see the village full of life. The villagers go about their day buying groceries and selling their locally grown products.
So what is so special about Baizhang village? Well, since Baizhang is surrounded by the mountains, most of their resources come from up there. Being rich in bamboo trees, Baizhang is very well known for its bamboo craft as well as movie scenes featuring a bamboo forest.
Here, we learned the way of an experienced bamboo craftsman. We started by locating the optimal bamboo tree for crafting (even if its way.. way up in the mountain). Then, we learned how to cut and transport the bamboo back down to the workshop. It was a tiring experience using every part of my body to hike up and carry down these giant green poles. Never would I have known that you could carry a 40 m bamboo tree all by yourself.
Finally, we were taught the different uses of bamboo, mainly for crafting and to use it as food. Weaving the individual bamboo strands to make a bamboo craft was definitely one of the activities that required a lot of patience. Having the chance to try both origami craft (a few weeks ago) and this bamboo weaving experience, I’d have to say Bamboo weaving is way harder.
Sadly, this ancient craft is slowly getting reduced and replaced by machines as well as the “Green” movement for the government deemed bamboo crafting to be bad for the environment. Thankfully, Mr. Zhou, the Shifu(master bamboo craftsman) still holds these bamboo workshops to students all around China so as to educate us about this important and enriching Bamboo culture.
Some of Shifu Zhou’s work: