Bam­boo hul­la­bal­loo

Anji’s abun­dance of ‘su­per grass’ makes it host to syn­er­getic eco­tourism and sus­tain­able man­u­fac­tur­ing. Xu Lin and Erik Nils­son ex­plore its plumed peaks and flour­ish­ing fac­to­ries.

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | TRAVEL - Con­tact the writ­ers through xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It’s so much like a movie back­drop that it has ac­tu­ally served as sev­eral. A war­rior in a flut­ter­ing tra­di­tional robe smashes swords with a young woman as they lit­er­ally fly through a bam­boo grove’s canopy in the in­ter­na­tional block­buster Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon.

The iconic fight scene was shot in Zhe­jiang prov­ince’s Anji county— for good rea­son.

Vis­i­tors to the film­ing site in Anji’s Dazhuhai, or the Great Bam­boo Sea, will dis­cover that the land­scape’s magic, un­like the movie’s mar­tial arts, doesn’t re­quire spe­cial ef­fects.

They can soar like the Crouch­ing Tiger scene’s fencers— even more fan­tas­ti­cally, in fact — by zap­ping along a zip line over Dazhuhai.

Other cin­e­matic hits, in­clud­ing The Ban­quet and The Mat­ri­mony, were filmed there. A small mu­seum ded­i­cated to films set in Anji’s bam­boo forests is it­self set in Anji’s bam­boo forests.

Wan­der­ers may stum­ble upon derelict shoot­ing sites of their fa­vorite flicks in these thick­ets.

In­deed, the plant plays no small role in Anji win­ning such State-level des­ig­na­tions as Lead­ing Chi­nese Eco­tourism County, Beau­ti­ful Chi­nese Coun­try­side (des­ti­na­tion) and Most Liv­able County.

It’s im­por­tant not only to Anji’s sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment but also toChina’s— and per­haps the world’s.

The county pro­duces roughly a fifth of the coun­try’s bam­boo goods. The power plant is used by hun­dreds of lo­cal work­shops and fac­to­ries to man­u­fac­ture thou­sands of items.

Bam­boo’s al­chemic ver­sa­til­ity con­jures golden eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. It can be used to make al­most any­thing — tex­tiles, com­puter key­boards, sac­ri­fi­cial fu­ner­ary money, bike frames, lux­ury-car in­te­ri­ors, speaker di­aphragms, smart­phone cases, beer and an­i­mal feed.

That’s not to men­tion hu­man fare. And the cut­lery you eat it with. And the plates you put it on. And the ta­ble you put those on. And the bam­boo flooring you put the ta­ble on. And the bam­boo roof you put that un­der. And so on. Lo­cals re­call bam­boo roof­ing saved their lives dur­ing the flash floods of decades past. They’d crawl atop rooftops and float away on them like life rafts.

The plant also presents green op­por­tu­ni­ties en­vi­ron­men­tally.

It can eas­ily be grown or­gan­i­cally. It gulps pes­ti­cides from the soil while guz­zling co­pi­ous CO2 from the air.

Bam­boo pro­cess­ing typ­i­cally re­quires fewer tox­ins than gen­er­at­ing goods from trees.

It’s ex­pe­di­ently re­new­able. It can be har­vested in short spans.

Some va­ri­eties grow so fast that you can hear them creak as they stretch to­ward the sky.

They’re like Jack’s beanstalks. Per­haps louder.

In­dus­trial users pro­duce Anji’s bam­boo that in turn pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment and adorns the ter­rain. That in turn lures tourists — pro­duc­ing a sym­bio­sis of ecol­ogy and com­merce.

The plant has for mil­len­nia oc­cu­pied a revered po­si­tion in Chi­nese cul­ture.

It’s among the first sub­jects tra­di­tional pain­ters are re­quired to mas­ter.

It shares the dis­tinc­tion as one of the “four gentle­men”, along with the or­chid, plum blos­som and chrysan­the­mum.

An­cient schol­ars ven­er­ated it as an icon of longevity and en­durance — a con­cept that has long en­dured to ex­tend to or­di­nary folks to­day. Anji hosts over 300 species. The bam­boo its peo­ple cul­ti­vate, in turn, cul­ti­vates its peo­ple.

“Chi­nese cul­ture is bam­boo cul­ture,” lo­cal agri­cul­tural expert Xuan Tao­tao ex­plains.

“Bam­boo can make farm­ers rich and our en­vi­ron­ment healthy. So we must pre­serve bam­boo forests and in­dus­tries.”

It’s cycli­cal.

Roofed cor­ri­dors in Anji’s bam­boo forests are fash­ioned out of bam­boo forests.

Spring Al­pha Re­sort of­fers not only gue­strooms or­na­mented with bam­boo hand­i­crafts but also lessons in hand­craft­ing bam­boo or­na­ments.

Build­ings de­signed ac­cord­ing to Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dy­nas­tic ar­chi­tec­ture with con­tem­po­rary flour­ishes are ar­ranged in court­yard gar­dens with stone bridges, pavil­ions and rock­eries.

Its com­mer­cial street is lined with snack stores, sou­venir shops, two bars and a the­ater where vis­i­tors can sip Anji white tea while sa­vor­ing tra­di­tional Shaox­ing Opera.

The re­sort also of­fers karaoke, mahjong and spa treat­ments.

Spring Al­pha’s al­lure, like much of the county’s, is based on the trend in which more Chi­nese seek more leisure over mere sight­see­ing.

And eco­tourism like Anji’s — which is con­versely sup­ported by sus­tain­able agro-in­dus­trial pro­duc­tion — ac­com­mo­dates both de­sires.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Top and bot­tom: The county of Anji in Zhe­jiang prov­ince is a lead­ing Chi­nese eco­tourism county be­cause of its rich cul­tural and nat­u­ral land­scape.

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