Expedition in China III: Bamboo Chair

A tea House in Xiba Town

Date: April 18-22, 2018                                      Location: Xiba, Leshan, Sichuan, China
Documentation: Huadou & ALTER THE AIR          Article: Sibo Peng, Mengya Huang 
Revision: Christopher Harkins

When we first planned Huadou two years ago, we began with an expedition to the famous tofu town, Xiba, in Sichuan, China. Together with Alter the Air design studio, we began to document the traditional methods of tofu-making, as well as the vivid marketplace lifestyle of the markets and the local families that inhabit them.

In our store, you will immediately be taken aback by the design of our interior. It is a place where light and shadow are perfectly balanced, creating an experience that is both transcendent and meditative. 

The bamboo chair is a symbol of both the Sichuan Tea House and of leisure in general. Made only from fresh bamboo shoots, the design of this chair aroused our interest and complimented the aesthetics of our store. Sichuan was originally the hometown of bamboo, and the local people have created numerous products from this material. 

However, with the effects of industrialisation, and the overabundance of Eucalyptus being planted in surrounding areas, a tree that grows quickly and exhausts soil fertility, the bamboo forests have slowly been replaced in large areas. In 2000, through governmental guidance, the Eucalyptus tree became the main source of plywood and paper in southern China. As a result of the large scale and uncontrolled planting that followed, the surrounding areas experienced a destruction of their natural ecological balance. 

As part of our research, we visited Master Huang, one of the few traditional craftsmen who is still hand-making bamboo chairs in Xiba Town, recording his process to preserve the cultural legacy of the craft.  It took Master Huang a whole morning to make a chair. Every part of the chair was assembled from bamboo, even the dowels. The ingenious craftsmanship and constructional consideration of this work continues to inspire contemporary designers today. 

Our research into bamboo left us with a lot of reflections and considerations, such as: the restoration of the the ecological environment and the natural bamboo forests; the use of more raw materials to reduce CO2 emissions from industrial production; how, in addition to basic functionality, furniture can affect the temperament of users and the space… 

To us, in some aspects, the bamboo chair is an indicative reminder of the post-industrial age. 

05.2020