Taiwan is located in the subtropical and tropical zone with bamboo varieties thriving under the climate. Lush and abundant bamboo has been an important material for crafts in local popular culture.
The bamboo crafts can broadly be divided into bamboo weaving, bamboo carving and bamboo culming. Bamboo culming is common in furniture-making and in constructing bamboo housing. Bamboo carving, on the other hand, is common in decorative and artistic works. Bamboo weaving is very common in daily necessities, such as baskets, hole-mesh baskets, rain hats, cage-like baskets, winnow baskets, square-bottomed baskets as well as other tools and utensils. The bamboo end-products are versatile when it comes to application in various domains and the related techniques are diverse.
When it comes to bamboo weaving, the raw material begins with the sliced and thin “bamboo batten,” made out of the bamboo pole. And then, the weaving process starts in a crisscross process. A series of steps generally involves selecting the bamboo, degreasing and peeling, half-splitting, thinning, same-width trimming, weaving from bottom-up, and closing of the opening, handle-making, foot-making and applying the final touch of the paint layer.
Bamboo weaving techniques are often categorized into two groups, namely, the dense-weaving and the hole-mesh weaving. The basic weaving skill involves more than two dozens of techniques. They are, for example, square-shaped weaving, herringbone weaving, twill weaving and pinwheel-style weaving, just to name a few. When it comes to specific utensils, specific weaving skills are involved in the making process.
Both the Moso and Makino bamboos varieties thrive in Zhushan and Lugu townships, in Central Taiwan. Eying the region’s great potential, the bamboo craft industry was given a boost during Japanese rule of Taiwan. In 1938, Japan set up a Bamboo Craft Training School in Zhushan County. Teachers of Japanese nationality started to teach bamboo craft weaving techniques on spot.
The school held key to the bamboo craft prosperity in the region. Local talents have been introduced along the way, including master Huang Tu-shan, deemed as national treasure, and late master Chang Hsien-pien. Huang Tu-shan is the winner of the 2008 National Crafts Achievement Award. His works of bamboo are elegant in shape, detailed in texture presentation, highly skilled with ultimate attention to details. In addition to that, Master Huang Tu-shan put great endeavor in promoting bamboo weaving and research. The Bamboo Cultural Museum of Zhushan Township also holds exhibition for the works by Master Huang Tushan, Master Chang Hsien-pien as well as many talented artisans.