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Chinese Bamboo Products II


With its vast territory China abounds in raw materials for braiding. Over millennia the Chinese workers mastered splendid braiding techniques for daily use and for creating wealth. The origin of braiding craft could be earlier than the origin of ceramics. Judging from the unearthed relics, the bamboo articles in the Warring States Period and the colored baskets in the Han Dynasty were both made superbly. According to the "History of the Tang Dynasty", there were already numerous places in China producing straw mattresses, while the rattan objects in Fujian and Guangdong provinces , the wicker cases in Cangzhou city, and the wheat-straw fans in Puzhou city were all famous braided articles.
   Bamboo articles include Bamboo furniture and Bamboo articles for daily use .
The styles of bamboo vary from place to place. The bamboo articles in Zhejiang have superb forms, made with slender bamboo strips as the body and wider bamboo strips as handles. Not only are they strong and durable, but also their different tints and widths produce diverse artistic effects. The bamboo articles in Fujian province have more than ten different patterns including the cross pattern and the flowering crabapple pattern. Often tinged with gold or other colors to make it look prettier. Recently, some of the bamboo articles in Fujian province have been made in the shapes of chicken, elephant and other animals, so that they may be used both as vessels and ornaments. The bamboo articles in Sichuan province are famous for the tenuous plaiting. The bamboo scrolls of painting and the glossy, flimsy bamboo plaiting. The bamboo scrolls of painting and the glossy, flimsy bamboo fans are both superb. The bamboo mattresses made in Shucheng county of Anhui province are known worldwide as "Shu mattresses" for their elegant patterns. The bamboo articles made in Hubei province are embellished with scratched or carved patterns, or with patterns composed of bamboo segments, showing a unique style.
  The bamboo-yellow articles are a special kind of bamboo articles, produced in "Shaoyang of Hunan province, Huangyan of Zhejiang province, Jiang'an of Sichuan province and Mount Jinggang of Jiangxi province, etc. Boiled and pressed, the internal yellow covering of bamboo has the color and feel of ivory. It is made into various stationery and adornments, on which are often carved decorative patterns.
  There are in China many different materials suitable for making straw articles . There include yellow grass , leaf of cattail, saltwater grass , Chinese alpine rush gold-vein grass , etc . In different places, due to the different technical traditions, the straw articles made are in varied styles. In North China wheat straw is abundant. In the northern provinces of Hubei, Shandong, Henan, wheat straw articles are produced in great amounts. Plaited wheat straw hats have long been an important item for export. Cattail leaf articles in Hebei and Shandong provinces have been produced long age. As was described by a Tang dynasty poet: "Cut cattail leaves in early frost ´ Braided into mattresses on jade beds." Besides, the yellow grass in Jiading and the salt water grass in Guangdong are dyed and processed into baskets, boxes, shoes, hats, cup cushions, crates, mattresses, toys and decorations, with superb silks and in many varieties.
  Rattans are chiefly produced in the southern provinces: There are many kinds of rattans, including pear rattan , grey rattan, white and black rattan, winding rattan, etc. The strong and pliable rattans with a golden sheen are the better rattans. Those produced on Hainan Island are the best. Rattans can be braided into various patterns and meshes. Different rattan threads can be made for different parts of a rattan article. Rattan rind is elastic and pliable, suitable for making handles. Rattans can be braided into furniture, baskets, lamp covers, vases, toy birds, toy animals, lanterns. etc.
  Beside rattans, there are also many other materials of similar properties. Apart from rattan braiding produced in Guangdong province, there are coir braided articles produced in Xinfan county of Sichuan province, wicker braided articles produced in Hebei and Jiangsu provinces, palm braided and aristae fern braided articles produced in Guangdong and Guangxi provinces and maize peel braided articles recently produced in the North. All of them have distinctive features.
  The skilled Chinese craftsmen have produced countless artistic handiwork. We can only describe a part of them. Other than what we have already mentioned, we my mention the following: Take for example the carving skills. Beside the stone and brick carvings, the skills of wood and ivory carving are also very high. The Chinese ivory carving skill is consummate. Carving "ivory balls within balls" is a special art. The balls at every layer can revolve freely. All the balls are concentric and have finely carved patterns. So, these are also called "uncanny balls". The old Chinese furniture usually has wood carvings that are exquisite and elegant. Complicated patterns may be carved on a minute wooden object. In an essay entitled the "Record of A Walnut Boat", written by Wei Xueyi, a scholar in the Ming Dynasty, it is stated that a folk artist could engrave on the shell of walnut less than one inch in diameter the figures and scene portrayed in the ^Red Cliff Lyric ̄ written by the Song poet Su Shi.
  Also, the toys an paper-cuts made by the Chinese folks are often exquisite handiwork worthy of appreciation.