Bamboo weaving is a handicraft that uses bamboo split into strips or filaments from mountain bamboo to weave various utensils and handicrafts. The craft of bamboo weaving not only has great practical value, but also has a profound historical heritage.
In the history of bamboo weaving industry, it was mostly in the form of workshops, often passed down from generation to generation or through master-apprentice relationships based on workshops, where apprentices became independent after learning and then recruited apprentices, passing on their skills through oral and practical teaching. Generally used for daily necessities and agricultural tools. Bamboo weaving has a long history and is the second batch of Chinese intangible cultural heritage.
Diao Kuan, a bamboo weaving craftsman born in the 1990s, is from Dangshan County, Anhui Province. As a child, Diao Kuan loved to hang around the old craftsmen, willing to spend a whole day watching them weave bamboo. The old craftsmen's hands seemed to have a magical power, turning ordinary bamboo strips into exquisite handicrafts. The love for bamboo weaving was like a seed planted in the young Diao Kuan's heart.
What sets Diao Kuan apart from other craftsmen is that he injured his right hand when he was only 8 months old, causing serious disability in his right arm and hand. During his middle school years, Diao Kuan was able to use small bamboo sticks to construct very complex buildings. He designed and made bamboo stick works such as Yueyang Tower, Zuiweng Pavilion, Bamboo Palace, and Writing Desk all by himself.
Physical trauma left Diao Kuan feeling deeply insecure, even withdrawn. However, throughout his life, he has always had a shining, soft spot for the ancient traditional intangible cultural heritage of bamboo weaving. Diao Kuan began studying the art of bamboo weaving in high school, and was able to enter a craft design major in college, where he learned from Liu Zongfan, a national-level master of Bamboo Art. Upon graduating from university, Diao Kuan immediately traveled to Zhejiang, where he dedicated himself to studying bamboo weaving under the tutelage of Hu Zhengren.
Building on the foundation of inheriting traditional bamboo weaving skills, Diao Kuan relied on his resilience to break through his own limitations, constantly seeking knowledge and innovation, and developing a series of popular bamboo weaving products such as hairpins and bell ornaments. The art of bamboo weaving allowed Chao Kuan to re-examine himself and strengthened his spiritual world, allowing him to achieve spiritual rebirth in life.
"The initial step in bamboo weaving is to first split the bamboo, which is three to four meters long, into bamboo strips. After several layers of division, the bamboo strips are scraped into countless thin strips, each measuring three millimeters in thickness. This entire process cannot rely on machines." Due to Diao Kuan's unique right hand, which differs from others, the master was unable to teach Diao Kuan the precise strength and angle of gripping the bamboo knife, and he had to figure out his own cutting technique through thousands of attempts.
"At that time, my hands never got a break, and blisters turned into blood blisters, and blood blisters turned into calluses." Reflecting on these difficult years, Diao Kuan stated that he has never regretted his decision, and if given another chance to choose, he would still choose this path.
In 2019, Diao Kuan established the Xiao Kuan Bamboo Workshop. The brand is engaged in the design, production, and research of bamboo weaving accessories and artworks, as well as teaching offline experiential courses. We can not only see the extraordinary efforts Diao Kuan has put in, but also his sincere dedication as a craftsman.
"In these decades, I not only need to reconcile with myself, but also with various external voices," Diao Kuan said. "Bamboo weaving creation is the primary way for me to dispel negative emotions and please myself. Through bamboo weaving, I have not only made many new friends, but also rediscovered myself in the process of creation."
Now, deeply influenced by his master, Diao Kuan has aspired to become a true craftsman born for bamboo weaving. For him, creation has already merged with his life, and he only wants to be an instinctive artisan, without the need for grand decorations, and everything is done according to his heart's desire.
I have been looking for a source of bamboo strips in suitable thinness to tie knots...