Bamboos for weaving and relevant traditional knowledge in Sansui, Southwest China

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Background Traditional bamboo weaving has been practiced for centuries in Sansui, a county dominated by the Miao people, in Guizhou province of Southwest China. Sansui bamboo weaving represents an intangible cultural heritage as defined by UNESCO, but, like many other traditional handicrafts in China, it has suffered a downfall in this period of rapid development. Sansui bamboo weaving is now experiencing a renaissance due to the joint efforts of the local government, bamboo weaving companies, and individual bamboo weavers. However, what bamboo species have supported the traditional bamboo weaving in Sansui keeps unknown up to now. The traditional knowledge and technology associated with bamboo weaving have not been reported. In addition, the resumption of the local bamboo industry may provide some valuable experiences for other downfallen traditional handicrafts or local communities. Thus, an ethnobotanical study on Sansui bamboo weaving has been carried out. Methods This study mainly used ethnobotanical methods, including key informant interviews and participatory observations. Different stakeholders were selected by applying the snowball method as our key informants including 6 officials, 37 bamboo weavers, and 17 bamboo and bamboo weaving product merchants. We also went into the local weavers’ houses to visit the whole weaving process. The bamboo and dye plant species for bamboo weaving were identified by taxonomists and referring to online databases available. Results Based on field investigations, 17 bamboo species used for weaving were recorded. Different bamboo species were woven for different purposes based on their own characters. Phyllostachys heteroclada is the most popular species locally. Bamboo strips are usually dyed by using Platycarya strobilacea and Rubia cordifolia to be made for different images. In recent years, the size, functions, and materials of local bamboo weaving crafts as well as their market mode have been changed to adapt to new development trends and to cater to the market. In addition, the cooperation among bamboo weavers, bamboo companies, and household workshops has provided great support to the local bamboo industry and to reboot the economy of the local community. Some suggestions for the sustainable economic development of Sansui bamboo weaving and other Chinese traditional handicrafts are proposed. Conclusion In the present study, the bamboo weaving-associated traditional knowledge was collected by means of ethnobotanical methods. The recent renaissance of the bamboo weaving business in Sansui can be attributed both to government support and the innovations of the bamboo weaving industry itself. The developing mode (“Internet + intangible cultural heritage + poverty alleviation”), which combined the internet, poverty alleviation, and intangible cultural heritage, is valid and worth being promoted.




Luo, B., Ahmed, S. & Long, C. Bamboos for weaving and relevant traditional knowledge in Sansui, Southwest China. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 16, 63 (2020). doi:10.1186/s13002-020-00418-9
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