China is known as the Kingdom of Bamboo because it has the most bamboo of any country in the world. More than 400 species of bamboo, one third of all known species in the world, grow in China. China leads the world in the amount of area planted with bamboo, the number of bamboo trees and the amount of bamboo wood produced every year. The area that produce the most bamboo are south of Changjiang (Yangtze) River, and the biggest producers are Sichuan, Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Jiangsu provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
The oldest archaeological finds of bamboo articles in China were unearthed from the remains of a primitive society that existed some 7.000 years ago in what is now Hemudu, Yuyao County, Zhejiang Province. As early as the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century B.C), Chinese people used the bamboo for making household articles and weapons, such as bows and arrows. Before paper was invented, strips of bamboo were the most important writing medium, more widely used than silk, for example, because they were cheaper, resistant to corrosion, and more abundant. Bamboo has thus played an important part in the spread and development of traditional Chinese culture.
Today, bamboo is widely used for household articles such as mats, beds, pillows, benches, Chairs, cabinets, buckets, chopsticks, spoons, baskets, and handheld fans. It is also used to make traditional Chinese musical instruments such as the sheng, a reed instrument; the di, a flute; and the xiao, a flute held vertically.
Tall and graceful with luxuriant foliage, bamboo is an ideal plant for household courtyards and parks. It tolerates the heat of summer and the cold of winter, it grows on unfertile land, and it regenerates after being cut.
Throughout the centuries, bamboo has inspired the imagination of artists, while men of letters have written poetry and prose to express their admiration for the purity and elegance of bamboo. They compared the qualities of bamboo to those of man, and Su Dongpo attributed his literary inspiration to bamboo. Bamboo was also a favorite subject of noted Chinese painters of past dynasties.
Bamboo, a material for arts and crafts and a symbol of integrity, has enriched the traditional Chinese culture, and become an everlasting subject for scholars and artists.