Wherever Bamboo Grows, the Dai Folk Lives

A Dai Village in the Depth of the Bamboo Woods

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We are all quite familiar with bamboos. Ever since ancient times, the Chinese have cultivated the hobby to love bamboos, and they address pine trees, cypress tress and bamboos as "the three friends in winter time". The great litterateur of the Northern Song Dynasty, Su Dongpo, once wrote: "we will do without meat when eating, but we cannot do without bamboos when living". He also described that "we build houses with bamboos, we sit on rafts made of bamboos, we write on paper made of bamboos, we wear bamboo hats, and we cannot part with bamboos for even one single day". Not come singly but in pairs, in the Dai folk songs in Xishuangbanna, there are also poetic lyrics such as "wherever there are bamboos, there will be Dai villages", and it really describes the close relation between all ethnical groups and the bamboos there. 

There are over 100 varieties of bamboos in the rain forests of Xishuangbanna. They are all over the mountains and plains. Many villages of all ethnical groups are sheltered under the bamboo woods, which make the place enjoy elegant and beautiful landscapes. Regarding the use of bamboos by all ethnical groups, besides those mentioned by Su Dongpo, there are still many other little known stories. In the case of the edible bamboo shoots, besides fresh shoots we are all familiar with, there are also dry bamboos (shoot chips, pressed shoots, and shoot flowers), and pickled shoots in Xishuangbanna; the dishes such as "sour shoots and fish" and "sour shoots and chicken" are all famous traditional dishes of the Dai folks; the steamed shoots and cooked shoots are also traditional dishes of the Dai folks; while, the "Nanmi" made with sliced shoots is also a rare delicacy on the Dai folks' dining tables. The most interesting use for bamboo is to use bamboo barrels as pots for cooking over the fire; if the water or tea is boiled with bamboo cans, they will give off a special flavor. If a bamboo can is used for boiling water or cooking for a longer time, the bamboo will become as thin as paper, which passes heat very quickly and makes the boiling of water much easier; thus, such cans are quite to the liking of the Dai folks. If some sticky rice and water are put into the bamboo barrel made of cephalostanchyum pergracile, they will give off a faint fragrance. During the Water-Splashing Festival, the Dai folks have a custom to release "Gaosheng" (a kind of easily made rocket); when the rockets head on upwards, they will attract large crowds of people. When making "gaosheng", except the explosives, the barrels used to hold explosives, the long sticks for controlling the rocket, and the releasing platform are all made with bamboos. 

All the ethnical groups in Xishuangbanna have an inclination on bamboos. Their daily life, culture, arts and religious beliefs all have relations with bamboos. They also accumulate enriched experiences and knowledge in cultivating, processing and using bamboos, and they have formed a unique bamboo culture.