“Walking along streets and alleys, we were looking for the rumored last bamboo workshop in Taitung. Passing through Baosang Road, the first-class business district in the old Taitung residents’ memory, we came to Guangdong Road which was known as "Bamboo Ware Street". There were ten bamboo workshops on this street in the 70s and 80s! Cottages around the corner were surrounded by piles of bamboo. The handwritten sign hanging on the wall which reads "Bamboo Ware Process, Cheap Rattan Sheet" swayed in the wind. Crisp sounds made by carving bamboo came from the inside of the house. He is Master Suan-Yuan Yang, who was holding a chisel and building a bamboo chair which he is best at. Moreover, he is currently the only master who is still making bamboo furniture in Taitung.
“Bamboo furniture was once the important daily necessity in the early days of people's lives. Such as tables, chairs, stools, beds, cabinets, shelves, boxes, and screens, they were all made of bamboo. The only material used in the entire process was bamboo. Bamboo furniture has the natural characteristics of good moisture and heat absorption. Thus, it feels cool and sweat-wicking sitting on a bamboo chair in the boiling summer, while it gives people a warm feeling in winter. It is also strong and durable.
“In the past, there were 30 bamboo craftsmen in our street! We were very busy, especially before the New Year, when people would order kitchen cabinets from us. The cabinet with doors and drawers was very complicated. There were so many orders that all of us had to stay up all night to finish them.” Master Yang enthusiastically recounted the past, taking us back to the lively days of Bamboo Ware Street.
“Despite his age of eighty, Master Yang’s figure of making bamboo stools with a concentrated look and agile hand movements showed that he was still not over the hill yet. First, dimensions of the bamboo chair were measured with a ruler which has no scale but only indentations and lines on it. It was used to record the height of the chair's legs, the bends, and the position of the holes. This ruler was the blueprint of the chair, as known as the “Gau Scale”, and is used in the construction of traditional Minnan buildings. Someone says that a carpenter is like a magician and Gau scale is the magic wand. Wave the magic wand and a house and a piece of furniture pop out. Then, Master Yang picked up a chisel and mallet to engrave the holes and grooves on the bamboo. The crisp sound of chiseling echoed in the whole street. Imagine in the early days, where the masters worked day and night, the whole Bamboo Ware Street would sound like a unique bamboo pipe symphony. Soon later, Master Yang put the bamboo onto the stove, a fragrant smell started to come out. After the bamboo was roasted, the master bent the bamboo at a right angle, and a bamboo chair emerged in a flash.
“This is a technique that can only be used on bamboo! Wooden or rattan furniture can't endure the tense process, but bamboo is tough after roasting, so it can be made into various shapes.” Master Yang proudly talked about the characteristics of bamboo, while cutting the bamboo tubes into flat pieces and fixing them with press strips to form the chair surface. Finally, the bamboo was cut into nails and pressed into the joints. A bamboo stool was completed by Master Yang’s agile hands. This little bamboo stool was constructed with most of the techniques of making bamboo furniture. The joint was extremely strong and secure, and it did not sting at all when touched.
“Master Yang was from Magong, Penghu. At that time, there was only one bamboo workshop in Penghu. With the love of bamboo products, he became an apprentice to learn bamboo craft at the age of fourteen. Master Yang was so talented that he learned the techniques of making bamboo stools on the first day, while other apprentices cannot even craft a bamboo stool properly after three months of training. He finished his apprenticeship in only two years. After that, Master Yang left Penghu to make a living in Taiwan. We can find Master Yang's hard work all over the island. He has worked in bamboo ware shops located from Kaohsiung, Taoyuan, Taipei, Hualien to Taitung. Besides furniture, he has taken on many custom orders, such as chicken cages, cabinets, beds, and more.
“At the age of twenty five, Master Yang had seen most the scenery in Taiwan. He decided to go abroad and explore the world. He started a 15-year life as a sailor. On fishing vessels, he was responsible for engine maintenance. He has set foot in fifteen countries, India, East Africa, West Africa, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Tahiti, Samoa, Singapore, Malaysia, and so on. After viewing lots of the scenery in the world, Master Yang, at the age of forty, picked up his specialty ”bamboo art” again and returned to Taitung. He has experienced the most prosperous era of Bamboo Ware Street and witnessed the rise and fall of the handicraft industry.
“Actually, I am very flexible! Although my knees are not as strong as they used to be, I hope I can keep working until I can't move!” Master Yang's sudden confession presents a perfect interpretation of himself and bamboo. Tough and flexible as bamboo, Master Yang still persists in his original intention after traveling and exploring in many places.
楊竹器加工店 Yang Bamboo Ware Processing Shop
地址 Add｜台東縣台東市廣東路119號 No. 119, Guangdong Road, Taitung City, Taitung County
You are welcome to order bamboo furniture from Master Suan-Yuan Yang!