What was once a symbol of the Orient, bamboo now has a reputation as the mediator between the strength of hardwood and the sustainability of grass. Technically a type of grass, bamboo grows faster than any other woody plant in the world. In just five years, most species of bamboo reach maturity, and certain types are known to double in size in a single day. Other popular hard woods barely grow an inch in a week, and several, such as oak, can take up to 120 years to reach maturity.
This woody grass currently grows throughout the world, but the origin of bamboo is believed to be ancient China. Bamboo is finally being utilized in all walks of life. From dishware to clothing, you can find a bamboo alternative in almost every industry. In today’s environmentally conscious society, we have finally begun to utilize bamboo across the board.
Bamboo was first found and used in China more than 5000 years ago, which is why the woody plant conjures up images of pandas eating shoots and leaves in the Orient. Even though its many uses are only just becoming widely known, the bamboo plant as an alternative material began long before “going green” became a trend. Believe it or not, the history of bamboo is historically significant for many Asian countries!
16th-17th Century BC
During the Shang Dynasty, bows, arrows, and other household items were made using bamboo.
140 BC/134 BC and 118 BC
In 1972, ancient Chinese writing tablets made of bamboo strips, called Yinqushan Han Slips, were discovered in burial tombs. Several important writings were discovered, including the lost chapters from the Six Strategies.
Cai Lun of China made the world’s first plant tissue paper out of bamboo.
During the Jin Dynasty, a book is written detailing the difference species and uses of bamboo.
The Ming Dynasty, which lasted almost three centuries, used bamboo as the main bedding for the empire.
During the Ming Dynasty, bamboo charcoal was created. Emissions are not nearly as bad as traditional charcoal, resulting in purer air for us all!
A patent (No. 8274) is filed in England for the first bamboo bicycles. They were shown at the London Stanley Show of 1894.
Known for setting trends around the world, Gucci helped to jump-start the bamboo craze back in 1947 when they manufactured the first bamboo handbag.
The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, an international organization dedicated to improving the social, economic, and environmental benefits of bamboo and rattan, is established by treaty.
In Mizoram, India, 10, 736 people set the world record for the largest bamboo dance.
Bamboo Today: Fast Facts
- There are over 70 genera of bamboo, separated into 1450 species!
- Bamboo shoots, stems, and leaves make up the majority of several animals’ diets, including China’s Giant Panda, Nepals’ Red Panda, and the bamboo lemurs of Madagascar.
- Bamboo shoots are edible, and are common in several Asian dishes and broths. However, the shoots of the giant bamboo contain cyanide.
- The edible part of bamboo is a low-calorie source of potassium.
- Fabric made from bamboo is highly absorbent, and comparable to the softness of cashmere.
Image courtesy of jpmaj20