Bamboo is associated strongly with China. Although it grows in many parts of the world, bamboo is deeply entwined with Chinese culture. Bamboo is a form of grass. In some places, such as Yunan province, some varieties of bamboo can grow four feet per day. The rapid growth rate of bamboo allows for its widespread use without depleting the resource.
Bamboo has been used in China since prehistoric times. Bamboo, which sometimes has a higher tensile strength than steel, according to the BBC, is a popular building material. Cut into strips, it has been used to make baskets for thousands of years and has been woven into supports for wattle and dob house walls since prehistory. Modern construction projects in China often use bamboo scaffolding instead of modern steel.
Yibin, in western China, produces more bamboo than any other part of China, with nearly 165,000 acres currently planted for bamboo production. Bamboo production in Yibin is used for a variety of activities, including traditional construction, furniture and food. Yibin's bamboo is also used in many commercial and industrial products.
Modern Industrial Uses
In addition to traditional, historic uses of China's bamboo, China has developed techniques of pulping bamboo and using it in the production of paper, to offset the $5 billion it spends annually importing pulp for the production of paper. Traditionally, bamboo charcoal has been popular in bamboo-producing areas. However, commercial growing of bamboo has resulted in industrial production of bamboo charcoal for parts of China where it doesn't grow well.
Bamboo shoots are a popular food in China. Shoots from smaller bamboo plants are peeled and steamed to a soft, but firm, white texture. Shoots from larger trees are often roasted over a fire to burn off the hard, woody coating before the bamboo is cut into strips and steamed or boiled. Prepared correctly, almost any bamboo shoot is edible.
There are 1012 species of bamboo in Asia, according to the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan. China supports 626 of those species, far more than the 102 species known in India. Although the giant bamboos, the type that can grow four feet per day, can tower above the canopy, most bamboos grow in shady areas under the forest canopy. Commercial production of bamboo often occurs in consort with the protection of the overall forest, to ensure adequate future production.