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History of Bamboo

Perhaps one of the greatest breakthroughs in sustainable development in recent years, bamboo has a bright future as a naturally beautiful and incredibly durable alternative to our limited global supply of hardwood.

Though bamboo is a one of the oldest building materials known to humanity, it is a relative newcomer to the natural moulding market, offering a new look of distinction for your decor. Strong, long-lasting, ecologically-friendly, and absolutely beautiful, bamboo is quite possible the perfect product. Increasingly popular, the future of bamboo is bright.

Bamboo has been used in China for over 5000 years - the earliest history of bamboo use in the entire world. In ancient China, bamboo was used for making books, food, paper, some of the greatest palace buildings the Emperors had and many other items. In the Jin Dynasty a special book on bamboo was written in 265-316 A.D., in which many of China's bamboo species were recorded in detail. It was the last native Chinese dynasty to rule the empire the Ming Dynasty, spanning almost three centuries between 1368 and 1644 to use bamboo as bedding. Some historians argue that Early Ming China was the most advanced nation on Earth at the time.

China is known as the Kingdom of Bamboo because it has the most bamboo of any country in the world. More than 400 species of bamboo, one third of all the known species in the world, grow in China. China leads the world in the amount of area planted with bamboo, the number of bamboo trees, and the amount of bamboo wood produced every year. The areas that produce the most bamboo are south of the Changjiang (Yangtze) River, and the biggest producers are Sichuan, An hui, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Jiangsu provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The oldest archaeological finds of bamboo articles in China were unearthed from the remains of a primitive society that existed some 7,000 years ago in what is now Hemudu, Yuyao County, Zhejiang Province. As early as the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century B.C.), the Chinese used bamboo for making household articles and weapons, such as bows and arrows. Before paper was invented, slips of bamboo were the most important writing medium. More widely used than silk, for example, because they were cheaper, resistant to corrosion, and more abundant. Bamboo has thus played an important part in the spread and development of traditional Chinese culture.

Bamboo was closely connected with the daily lives of people in ancient China. Su Dongpo (1037-1101), a literary giant of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), said that people could not live without bamboo. The people of the time used bamboo as firewood and to make tiles, paper, rafts, hats, rain capes, and shoes. At that time, as today, bamboo shoots were eaten as a popular dish because of their crispness and fresh, sweet taste. Bamboo shoots also contain vitamins, sugar, fat, and protein.

In the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D.220) bamboo was used for papermaking because it produced high-quality paper and was inexpensive - three tons of bamboo could yield one ton of paper pulp. Bamboo is still an important raw material for papermaking today. Some 1,600 years ago, people wrote with brushes on xuan paper made from young bamboo. Xuan paper is still popular for Chinese calligraphy and paintings.

Today bamboo is widely used for household articles such as mats, beds, pillows, benches, chairs, cabinets, buckets, chopsticks, spoons, baskets, and handheld fans. It is also used to make traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the sheng, a reed instrument; the di, a flute; and the xiao, a flute held vertically.

Woven bamboo arts and crafts come in a wide variety, including toy animals, lanterns, flower baskets, trays, tea boxes, screens, and curtains. Bamboo weaving is popular in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Hunan, Sichuan, and Anhui as well as Zhejiang which has a history of bamboo weaving going back more than 2,000 years.

Bamboo is also used in Chinese medicine. The leaves eliminate heat and phlegm; the juice cures strode, insanity, and a kind of asthma caused by excessive phlegm; and the root can stimulate the vital forces, quench thirst, and promote lactation.

Bamboo's resistance to stretching and its ability to support weight are at least double those of other kinds of wood, making bamboo an ideal material for houses, scaffolding, supporting pillars, and work sheds.

Tall and graceful with luxuriant foliage, bamboo is an ideal plant for household courtyards and parks. It tolerates the heat of summer and the cold of winter, it grows on unfertile land, and it regenerates after being cut.

Throughout the centuries, bamboo has inspired the imagination of artists, while men of letters have written poetry and prose to express their admiration for the purity and elegance of bamboo. They compared the qualities of bamboo to those of a man, and Su Dongpo attributed his literary inspiration to bamboo. Bamboo was also a favorite subject of noted Chinese painters of past dynasties.

Bamboo, a material for arts and crafts and a symbol of integrity, has enriched the traditional Chinese culture, and become an everlasting subject for scholars and artists.

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