History of Bamboo
The use of bamboo goes back a long time. In fact, bamboo has been considered to be a symbol of good fortune in Asian cultures for over 4,000 years. Its ability to grow quickly and strongly has long deemed it a symbol of success and healthy sustenance. It’s one of the most popularly sought after Feng Shui symbols, highly recommended by the masters for creating a space of safe energy.
Bamboo’s long lasting life has instilled it as a Chinese symbol of longevity, and it is considered to be symbolic of long lasting friendship in India. Its rare blossoming flowers have also been considered a sign of impending famine, probably due to rats feeding on the flowers to multiply and destroy the area’s food supply.
Early use in paper
Historically, China used the properties of bamboo to invent paper, using the inner pulp of bamboo to make the first paper ever. According to Chinese historical accounts, Ts'ai Lun who lived in the Eastern Han Dynasty first invented paper in 104 CE. He took the inner pulp of the mulberry tree and bamboo fibers, mixed them with water and pounded them with a wooden hammer. He then poured the mixture onto a coarse woven cloth and let the water drain through to leave only the fibers on the cloth that formed the paper.
An ancient book entitled “Bamboo” written between 265 to 316 AD lists 61 species and varieties of bamboo in detail, including descriptions of their biological characterizations as well as gardening techniques. It’s one of the oldest publications in history.
Other early uses of bamboo in China
Bamboo has traditionally been used in China to make musical instruments, drinking cups and buckets, fishing rods, walls and structural posts, wicker furniture, rafts, carpets and even phonograph needles. Many of these bamboo components are still being used today. Bamboo has also been a favorite cuisine ingredient in China for thousands of years.
Archeologists have unearthed bamboo weaving relics in China that are thousands of years old at the ruins of Banpo village in Xian, Shanxi province. Bamboo was used in ancient China for arrows, books, palace buildings and many other items. Ancient Chinese civilization owes quite a bit to bamboo.
Bamboo records the roots of Confucianism
Bamboo slips discovered in the 1990s have revolutionized what we know of the early days of Confucianism. In 1993, more than 800 bamboo slips were unearthed in Guodian in central China's Hubei Province that contained 13,000 ancient Chinese characters. Studies of these slips provided new perceptions of Confucianism during its early days. Confucius’s philosophy provided the building blocks of China early culture and political system. The bamboo slips laid out the early principals of Confucianism in simplicity at its root core, simpler than modern visions of Confucianism had suggested. The fact that much of it was recorded on bamboo shows the significance bamboo played in the early development of China.
A history that continues to evolve
One of the main reasons bamboo has been proven so useful over history is the incredible rate at which it grows. As the fastest growing plant on earth, bamboo can grow as much as one meter in a single hour. Studies have shown some species grow 121 cm in a 24-hour period. With this kind of growth, it proved a versatile building option. In the modern world, bamboo is being utilized again as a basic building mechanism, being used on everything from houses to fencing to computer keyboards.