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In today’s high-tech era, traditional craftsmen are becoming a rarity. In Hangzhou, China, Master Wang Li invites us to glimpse inside the disappearing art of bamboo weaving.

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Bamboo weaving is an ancient craft. But where traditional craftsmen used only a basic weave and single strips, lately there has been new developments in technique.  Weavers have been introducing double warp and double weft strips. This entirely new weaving space creates and entirely new effect: a subtle, textured sheet, woven with the thinnest bamboo strips ever cut, each less than half a millimeter thick.

The first step was to separate bamboo into blocks, as quickly and as accurately as possible, when the bamboo was still fresh and tender. The bamboo stalk is split into equally thick segments and these in turn are split into strips. Taking a smooth strip in the palm of the left hand, holding the strip with the thumb and the index finger one centimeter away from the end, the cutter uses her right hand, a third of the way down the slice the cutter cuts into the bamboo, slicing toward herself.

Everywhere we went, tons of people gathered around us, and watched how we weaved this stuff (bamboo)

After hundreds of thousands of times of practice, weavers took two movements to complete the task. Weavers cut a block, swung it up and down, then one bamboo slice fell off. Cutting the bamboo again and swung, another slice off, and then another. All of the bamboo was sliced up in this way. Bamboo woven wares only require the first four layers of slices, sometimes only the first layer, since they have the best sheen.  Finally, the slices needed to be scraped again and again, until they were transparent, thinner than silk, less than 1mm.

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