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The Museum of Bamboo Art
The Origin of the Museum of Bamboo Art

The Museum of Bamboo Art Due to its rich bamboo resources, bamboo materials were a part of everyday life in Nantou County. During the Japanese Colonial Period the Linpipu Dapingding area located in the southeastern part of the county was renowned for its large and beautiful expanse of Moso Bamboo forests so it was named Chushan (Bamboo Mountain). The government also set up a Bamboo Materials Special Processing Zone at Chushan¡¦s Yanping area in 1974 to promote the bamboo industry. In 1987, as part of its policy of preserving and maintaining cultural assets as well as promoting unique heritage of each county and city, the Council for Cultural Affairs of the Executive Yuan commissioned Professor Chiang Shao-ying to plan the Museum of Bamboo Art.

The establishing of the ¡§Museum of Bamboo Art¡¨ was aimed at highlighting traditional and modern bamboo art. The exhibits include bamboo items used in the agricultural society of earlier times for food, clothing, accommodation and travel as well as modern bamboo crafts and arts. A retrospective and future vision for the bamboo materials processing industry in Nantou County is also provided to inspire future generations and pass on the heritage of the past.

Planned as a small themed museum, construction of the Museum of Bamboo Art was successfully completed on May 29, 1988. It was the first museum opened in Taiwan to be dedicated to local culture and also the only local museum with ¡§Bamboo Art¡¨ as its focus.

A Tour of Bamboo at Nantou
  The County is home to a thriving bamboo industry that has been combined with tourism and travel. Apart from our Museum, other unique locations such as the National Taiwan Craft Research Institute, the Bamboo Culture Park, the Chushan Bamboo Art District, the Dried Moso Bamboo Shoot Processing Area, Sunlinksea, Chitou Bamboo Forest, Hehuan Mountain, Batongguan Highland Grasslands (Spear Bamboo) and the Puli Bamboo Blind Hand-made Paper Factory are all experiences waiting for tourists to discover.
Types of Bamboo Art and Tools
  Bamboo Art can be roughly classified as bamboo fretwork, woven bamboo items, bamboo skewer craft, glued bamboo items, bamboo carvings and spatial installations. Representatives of these types are exhibited in each display area while this area provides a more general introduction to the traditional bamboo hollowing, weaving and carving crafts. The tools used and the processing of the raw materials is also explained here.
Our Ancestors¡¦ Everyday Bamboo Artifacts Exhibition Area
  Bamboo grows quickly, is useful and can be eaten. It only takes three to five years from the time of planting before its shoots can be harvested and the bamboo itself used for crafting items. It was therefore an important part of our ancestor¡¦s lifestyle with bamboo items used for agriculture, fishing, clothing, food, housing, travel, child-rearing and music. Bamboo items used by our ancestors generally fall into the following categories:
  Agriculture ¡V Our nation has always been based on agriculture and in the past our ancestors¡¦ livelihood were centered around agriculture as well. There was a great variety of agricultural implements used by the people, including tools used for tilling such as the buffalo harness, buffalo halter, cutting harrow, dustpan, hat and turtle-shell rain hat. For harvesting rice, yams and other crops there were shoulder poles, bamboo cages, rice baskets and vegetable carriers; for drying crops in the sun there was the riddle; for tea leaves there was the bamboo basket and tea-roasting cage; bamboo was also used in making granaries; rice mills for husking rice ¡V most of these were crafted using bamboo and woven bamboo in particular.
  Fishing ¡V Taiwan has many rivers and streams. It is also an island surrounded by the sea, so catching fish was also another part of the agricultural society. Traps for fish, fish fry, shrimps, frogs as well as fish holders and fishing rafts were all made from bamboo. Even the life-saving barrel was made from bamboo.
  Clothing ¡V Bamboo crafted items to keep off the sun and rain included the bamboo hat, turtle-shell rain hat and bamboo umbrella. There were also bamboo cabinets and wardrobes used for holding embroidery or clothing.
  Food ¡V Many bamboo items were found in the kitchen, including the bamboo table, food cover and food cabinet; items such as grocery baskets, noodle baskets and hanging baskets came in a variety of styles; bamboo chairs, chopstick holders, cutlery cages, oil ladles, rice sieves, cooking fork, rice spoon and chopsticks were quite common.
  Housing ¡V bamboo strips were often added to a home¡¦s main beam, walls and tiles; doors could be woven from bamboo as well while the main hall¡¦s great chairs, bamboo tables, tea tables, brush holders, brush racks and screens were often also made from bamboo; the fire pot used in winter and the bamboo fan for the summer heat were made from bamboo; in the bedroom there were bamboo beds, bamboo wardrobes, bamboo pillows and the ¡§Lady Bamboo¡¨ (comforter).
  Travel ¡V Bamboo items associated with transportation include bamboo bridges and bamboo rafts. Bamboo sedan chairs were also used by our ancestors for travel.
  Child-rearing and Music ¡V for children there were bamboo children¡¦s chairs, bamboo baby carriages and cradles; children¡¦s toys included the bamboo helicopter and bamboo cicada; musical instruments included the flute, piccolo, whistle, the Jinghu, panpipe, bamboo zither and mouth organ were mostly made from bamboo as well.

From the seven categories described above, it¡¦s plain that bamboo art and bamboo craft items played an indispensable role in the life of farming villages. For farming villages, utility was generally given priority. Though bamboo items may not have been very sophisticated they were all very useful, guaranteeing bamboo a place in everyday life. Industrialization in recent times has led to the widespread use of plastics and metals. These have gradually replaced bamboo art items.

Ceremonial Bamboo Art
  Among bamboo art items, ceremonial items were used by people to pay their respects to gods or ancestors, communicate with ghosts or for important occasions such as weddings, funerals, celebrations or birthdays. Elaborate and sophisticated examples of bamboo art can therefore often be found among ceremonial bamboo art items. Apart from the emphasis on craftsmanship they were also often highly decorative. Examples include:

Lanterns ¡V This was a folk craft item that was indispensable at weddings, funerals, festivals, celebrations or temple ceremonies. Bamboo strips were used for the lattice (Makino Bamboo was favored) with paper or silk used as covering. The lantern was then painted or written on. The paintings were usually very colorful featuring people, birds, flowers, dragons, phoenixes, the kirin or auspicious sayings.

Wedding Sedan Chair ¡V the bamboo sedan chair was known as the ¡§Chu Yu¡¨. Available types included the Cool Sedan Chair, Heated Sedan Chair, Official Sedan Chair, Civilian Sedan Chair, Wedding Sedan Chair and the Holy Sedan Chair. It was a very important method of transportation. Among these the Wedding Sedan Chair was the most common. In the past, a thin bamboo stem with its head, tail and leaves intact was hung on the wedding sedan chair to symbolize the bride¡¦s faithfulness and that the marriage will have a proper beginning and end. The matchmaker leads the procession holding a matchmaker¡¦s basket while a servant follows with the bridal gifts carried on shoulder poles and another basket in his arms, giving the entire event a festive atmosphere.

Bagua Rice Sieve ¡V the rice sieve is circular and woven from thin bamboo strips. The sieve was used to remove any foreign matter in the rice while the Bagua Rice Sieve was painted with the Taichi Bagua pattern as a ward against evil. This custom is said to originate from the legend of the Peach Blossom Fairy¡¦s Battle Against Jhou Gong.

Hand Basket ¡V Used when worshipping ancestors or gods. It held offerings such as the three domestic animals, four fruits and rice noodles.

Gift Basket ¡V woven bamboo gifts for ordinary people usually took the form of a gift basket. In Taiwan it was known as the Bounty Basket or Gratitude Basket. Gift Baskets came in different types. They include the Matchmaker Basket, the Betel Nut Basket, the Firecracker Basket, the Layered Basket and Gratitude Basket. The Layered and Gratitude Basket were the most commonly used.

Modern Bamboo Art Exhibition Area

The design and creation of bamboo art in modern-day Taiwan can be said to be still discovering its full potential. Bamboo art items have always focused mainly on utility, so the emphasis on aesthetics, the artistic value and implicit cultural sophistication is a new trend in the development of bamboo art in Taiwan.

Bamboo Carving ¡V The earliest examples of Chinese bamboo art can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period. The National Palace Museum in Taipei has in its collection bamboo carvings from the Ming Dynasty while Taiwan¡¦s master sculptor Huang Tu-shui also left behind many of his works. Though bamboo carving as an art has many practitioners, depending on their format they can be classified into five major categories: intaglio, cameo, relief, fretwork and freestanding. The crafting process involves eight stages ¡V selection of material, preservation treatment, carving of pattern, creating the rough model, detailing, sanding and polishing, dyeing, drying and waxing. Due to the distinctive grain and texture of the material the result is an artwork quite different from that of other materials.

Bamboo Weaving ¡V Bamboo weaving in Taiwan¡¦s early days was usually for making everyday items though ceremonial items were an exception. The average product was quite rustic. In the Japanese Colonial Period, as a part of the effort to stimulate local industry, the Fine Craftwork Instruction Center (1935) and Bamboo Fine Craftwork Learning Center (1936 ¡V 1945) were set up at Chushan. Japanese bamboo weavers were retained to teach their skills and this resulted in many skilled bamboo weavers. After Retrocession the government also established at Nantou a Handicraft Class to teach bamboo weaving (1953 ¡V 1959).

Generally speaking bamboo flower vessels were mostly made from Makino Bamboo and Thorny Bamboo though Moso and Giant Bamboo were also used. The crafting process involves five stages, these being: selection of material, splitting into bamboo strips and chips, weaving, detailing and painting.

To be considered exceptional a candidate project must show creativity as well as mastery of bamboo¡¦s characteristics and natural texture. This exhibition area features examples of important Taiwanese master bamboo weaving artists.

Masterpiece Collection Exhibition Area

The Masterpiece Collection Exhibition Area features the woven bamboo artworks of Wu Sheng-tsung, Huang Tu-shan, Li Jung-lieh and Chang Chen-ching. Artworks that combine bamboo and other mediums are featured as well, including Huang Li-shu¡¦s fusion of bamboo and lacquer as well as Chang Hsien-ping¡¦s combining of bamboo and rattan. For bamboo carvings, masterpieces in the collection include Yeh Chi-hsiang¡¦s ¡§Frog¡¨, Yeh Ta-chuan¡¦s ¡§Thankfulness¡¨, Lin Yu-yun¡¦s ¡§Butterfly Orchid¡¨, Chien Tsung-chih¡¦s ¡§Rising Flight¡¨ and Yen Cheng-sen¡¦s ¡§Three Friends of Winter¡¨. These all show very high levels of artistic achievement.

Modern Bamboo Craft
  Since the industrial revolution metals and plastics have gradually replaced natural materials. Items traditionally made from natural materials now come in metal or plastic so bamboo products are no longer a vital part of everyday life. Thanks to Chinese people¡¦s unique relationship with bamboo however there are still factories involved in the development and production of bamboo craft items. Modern bamboo craft items are not only utilitarian but their aesthetics are an important of the design as well. Bamboo swords, bamboo mats, bamboo lanterns, brush holders, toys, bamboo furniture, screens and blinds ¡V interior decoration has in particular become the mainstay of modern bamboo craft.
Bamboo Furniture Exhibition Area
  Since bamboo was easily acquired, our ancestors used it to make all kinds of furniture such as the bamboo table, chair, wardrobe, bed and bookcase. The maturing of bamboo pressure-bonding technology in recent years has also seen the widespread use of bamboo laminates. A greater variety of stronger bamboo craft items can now be made. Apart from the display of traditional bamboo pipe and woven bamboo furniture, this area also shows examples of bamboo laminates used with modern furniture.
Bamboo Species Models and Study Area
  Apart from passive displays of bamboo art objects, our Museum has in recent years, with the support of the Council for Culture Affairs of the Executive Yuan, held on many occasions bamboo craft classes and bamboo art design competitions. These are aimed at promoting the continuation of bamboo art techniques and encouraging of bamboo artists. In 2004 when the outdoor landscaping was refurbished a Bamboo Art Study Area was added. 20 kinds of common bamboo species found in Taiwan were also planted for the purpose of bamboo ecological education, providing an even more diverse range of service and functions.
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