Bamboo Weaving
Jing Fu
Shanghai
Classic
Fabric Decoration

sixty-six-year-old Jin Fu is a Longtan bamboo basket-maker carrying on a centuries-old craft in Shanghai Datuan county, near to the East China Sea. Originally  this area was a major gathering place for raw agricultural products.  Four and six and eight-cornered baskets, food baskets, baskets for rice, fish and wheat can be seen everywhere. Laopan is famed for the quality, beauty, diversity and popular shape of his baskets in the regions farms and markets, but also nowadays they may be taken as gifts or for more diverse uses such as for flower arrangements.

He is simple and honest, so no matter how others tried to persuade him to change his work, he unswervingly adhered to his family’s traditional line of business. What kind of faith made Laopan stay with his profession? Entering Laopan’s humble home, I observed that this man looked weatherbeaten and rough - he was obviously no soft office worker. But when he started to do his weaving job, he worked with incredible speed, clearly, logically, cautiously following the patterns his hands knew so well. Having stayed in this job for more than 50 years the accomplished way that he used his bamboo knife, or interlaced the dancing bamboo strands betrayed a true master at work. "Spring bamboo is better than winter, as the spring bamboo is more tender and pliant”, he explained. Soaking his chosen varieties of bamboo in water makes them easier to slice and split.  He took his sharp knife to gently hook, and then pull, the thick bamboo to split and open strands between his tough hands.  Next, fixing the blade on the bench, thumb holding down the knife, he pulls off strip after strip.  Thick would be uneven, thin is not strong, but under his practiced eye and hand each strand is perfect.  It is not so much the knife that is doing the work, but the skill, touch and sensitivity of the fingers of Jin Fu.

Weaving, plaiting, knitting is the final step, as the bamboo is vertically and horizontally intertwined, piece by piece, not too tight, not too loose but rapidly taking on the shape of the finished basket. “A good maker is careful to make the best use of the material, never wasting anything”, Laopan comments as he works.

China is home to about 1/3 of the world's 1,300 species of bamboo. For centuries, its tough, pliable stalks have been deftly woven into a wide variety of objects combining utility with remarkable artistic expression
Bamboo with elegant green and speckle-free stalks is of the best quality. Making process starts by splitting lengthy bamboo into small thin pieces. In case of basket weaving, the artisan cuts more than 30 splits from single bamboo
The various techniques, including cutting, splitting, scraping, dividing, weaving, dyeing, and lacquering. Initially the base part is made with splits of 1-inch width bamboo
The weaving patterns of base may differ from product to product like carrying baskets, shopping baskets, containers, storage baskets and fruit baskets. Once base weaving is completed, the side walls are weaved with small round shaped bamboo strips. Weaving is done by arranging the bamboo strips in criss-cross manner
Bamboo basketry is not an art exclusively reserved for women. Younger family members acquired this skill from their elders by observing, copying and perfecting their skills over many years of practice so they could teach others. Bamboo weaving is a traditional folk handicraft in Sichuan, Fujian, Zhejiang, Anhui, Taiwan and many other places in China where bamboo is abundant.

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