Traditional skills in the Chinese countryside

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philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
How I covet the notion of a kitchen and a stove designed for wok cooking.
That's getting close to a bushcraft base camp.
I use 3, my best oldest is nearing 50 yrs. +40C or hotter in the kitchen, what's another degree or two?
That sounds fun! This kind of stove doesn't warm the kitchen because the hearth is small and the building uninsulated. It probably wouldn't be hard to build one, but the chimney would be harder work.
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
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Stop me if this is getting boring, but we've been up in the mountains recently and I thought it was interesting how the green tea plants are grown in most places in open sun, but in one or two spots they were grown interspersed with bamboo. This was in a ravine, so I wonder if tea plants need good drainage and that spot is damp, so the bamboo helps soak up water.

I've been watching youtube videos about new permaculture and forest garden techniques, but it seems like this villagers may have been doing it for quite a while already.
 

SaraR

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Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
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Stop me if this is getting boring, but we've been up in the mountains recently and I thought it was interesting how the green tea plants are grown in most places in open sun, but in one or two spots they were grown interspersed with bamboo. This was in a ravine, so I wonder if tea plants need good drainage and that spot is damp, so the bamboo helps soak up water.

I've been watching youtube videos about new permaculture and forest garden techniques, but it seems like this villagers may have been doing it for quite a while already.
Tea plants do indeed need well-drained soil and is often planted on top of a pile of stones if the soil isn't draining enough.
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
I just went on a day trip to the little mountains south of Hangzhou and had a fascinating day that I need to blab about. Firstly, I stopped in a village to take a photo of a mural and met the guy who painted it, which isn't really bushcraft, but then he and his friend took me to visit a little waterfall. We walked up a little mountain covered in bamboo and I saw and was told about various interesting things. The mountain apparently has wild pigs and non-venomous snakes, and also a kind of large rodent that lives inside the giant bamboo. The bamboo itself is eaten as shoots (they dig it up at this time of year and dry what they don't use) and there were also the remains of a pit that was circa 70yrs old where bamboo was burned to make some kind of paper. The mountain had the pink wild azaleas in the photo and the mundane looking plant next to the bucket is a wild orchid. Locals have the habit of taking them home. The planted beds have chopped bamboo and rice husks on them for mulch/ fertiliser. The closeup of elongated leaves is a plant that's used to wrap up rice dumplings (zongzi) during the dragon boat festival and the only name in the dictionary is indocalamus. It may not have an English name. The basket/backpack is for picking tea and can supposedly also be used to catch or carry crayfish. I don't know if that was something that's done or just speculation. Another day recently I visited a green tea farm and I can't see anyone wanting fish-flavoured tea. The little old cottage is qing dynasty and may be available to rent for about 200 quid a year. I got a video clip inside and it would be more basic than camping, but entertaining. I have no use for it, but I might do it just because I can.

Bamboo mulch

Rice husk fertiliser

Cottage for rent

Drying bamboo shoots - probably white from added salt

Orchid

Tea picking basket

Wild mountain Azalea

Bamboo forest

Indocalamus - leaves used to wrap zongzi rice wraps

Mural
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
36,352
2,329
S. Lanarkshire
Excellent to see :)

The tea collecting basket is brilliant :) and the calamus I know of is Sweet Flag. Nice, and it's root is akin to orris as a base for a pot pourri, etc.,
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
The basket is something else, isn't it? I've never really woven anything, but it looks like a real expert standard - my gut says that someone made one at one point and people there have been making copies of it ever since. Weaving that shape would be hard, and using different widths in different places would surely make it harder. It reminds me of grandpa using a whole variety of bamboo, corn stalks, dried sesame stalks, etc as kindling; like people who've been doing this stuff for generations are just not playing the same sport.

The root of calamus smells good? The leaves are fairly bland. Maybe I can check next time I'm there. It's under 90 minutes from home by motorcycle, so I'll be back there - even if I don't rent a daft little cottage.

Excellent to see :) The tea collecting basket is brilliant :) and the calamus I know of is Sweet Flag. Nice, and it's root is akin to orris as a base for a pot pourri, etc.,
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
I just went on a day trip to the little mountains south of Hangzhou and had a fascinating day that I need to blab about. Firstly, I stopped in a village to take a photo of a mural and met the guy who painted it, which isn't really bushcraft, but then he and his friend took me to visit a little waterfall. We walked up a little mountain covered in bamboo and I saw and was told about various interesting things. The mountain apparently has wild pigs and non-venomous snakes, and also a kind of large rodent that lives inside the giant bamboo. The bamboo itself is eaten as shoots (they dig it up at this time of year and dry what they don't use) and there were also the remains of a pit that was circa 70yrs old where bamboo was burned to make some kind of paper. The mountain had the pink wild azaleas in the photo and the mundane looking plant next to the bucket is a wild orchid. Locals have the habit of taking them home. The planted beds have chopped bamboo and rice husks on them for mulch/ fertiliser. The closeup of elongated leaves is a plant that's used to wrap up rice dumplings (zongzi) during the dragon boat festival and the only name in the dictionary is indocalamus. It may not have an English name. The basket/backpack is for picking tea and can supposedly also be used to catch or carry crayfish. I don't know if that was something that's done or just speculation. Another day recently I visited a green tea farm and I can't see anyone wanting fish-flavoured tea. The little old cottage is qing dynasty and may be available to rent for about 200 quid a year. I got a video clip inside and it would be more basic than camping, but entertaining. I have no use for it, but I might do it just because I can.

Bamboo mulch

Rice husk fertiliser

Cottage for rent

Drying bamboo shoots - probably white from added salt

Orchid

Tea picking basket

Wild mountain Azalea

Bamboo forest

Indocalamus - leaves used to wrap zongzi rice wraps

Mural
What a clever basket! The photo of the bamboo forest reminded me of walking through the bamboo forests outside Cairns and how I just loved the sound they make in the wind. Would love to have that somewhere nearer to hand, so that I could visit and just sit and enjoy!
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
What a clever basket! The photo of the bamboo forest reminded me of walking through the bamboo forests outside Cairns and how I just loved the sound they make in the wind. Would love to have that somewhere nearer to hand, so that I could visit and just sit and enjoy!
There are small forested mountains near here and also some with bamboo. The bamboo ones seem so atmospheric. They make a nice sound in the wind, but just watching waves rippling through them is pretty special. I didn't even realise Australia had bamboo forests.
 
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SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
There are small forested mountains near here and also some with bamboo. The bamboo ones seem so atmospheric. They make a nice sound in the wind, but just watching waves rippling through them is pretty special. I didn't even realise Australia had bamboo forests.
Well, maybe not proper forests, but there were certainly enough very tall (tree height) bamboo stands on the outskirts of Cairns that you could walk through and be utterly mesmerised by. :)

I think I just managed to accidentally sign up to weiyun through WeChat... oops!
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
I'm staying with my girlfriend at her grandparents place a couple of hundred miles from Shanghai and I thought I'd post in here because I came across some stuff that no one but people on here would be interested in. Ha ha!

The grandparents are old school rural people, so they largely live off the land and are pretty self sufficient to a level that most bushcrafters would struggle with. We just had a traditional new year's eve dinner that was interesting in a number of ways. We (actually, everyone except me) cooked it on the old stove, which is a typical local DIY job made from bricks. It's been going about 40 years with little attention. It's got two fitted woks and a little bowl in the middle for heating water. Fuel is fed in from the back and there's a narrow chimney. Pushing fuel in drives ash off the back of that ledge to the bottom where it can be shoveled out. It's simple, but works perfectly. The bit that really struck me was the range of fuel used. People in Britain struggle to light a fire with big bits of hardwood, but people here use a bit of paper and a lighter to get it going immediately, then various fuels. Corn stalks light easily and burn quickly (because of corn sugar?). Bamboo lights a little slower and burns a little slower, but still faster than wood. Both give off a decent flame. A bit of hardwood (an old plank) was used afterwards for simmering. The families in this area all have several patches of farmland around the village and a little area of bamboo grove. Grandpa also brought in a bundle of sesame stalks and another bundle of dried reeds from the river bank. This stuff is all prepared in advance and stored in bundles to dry. I'm curious to see how the other things burn. People here don't really bother with heating, so they can cook every day of the year without cutting down a tree with just this fuel that most westerners wouldn't even notice. I remember seeing somewhere a reference table on how different woods burned and thinking that whoever wrote it was on a different level from the one I operate on. These guys really know their environment in the same way.

The food itself was delicious and interesting. There was a stewed pork leg joint, a fish fried in sauce that was bought alive in the market, a hen from the coop that made a wonderful soup, beans and spinach from the garden, shrimp with celery, a local vegetable related to chrysanthemum that was fried with strips of tofu, and homemade pork sausage. And I got a beer. Chinese people know how to eat. The stream behind the property is a bit of a mess because everyone along the banks has chickens and ducks in it and the water gets a bit spoiled by uneaten food and whatnot. This kind of lifestyle isn't all idyllic, but there's a free supply of little fish and crayfish in there.They had two goats until today when the fat one gave birth to two more. I can confirm that baby goats don't like new year's fireworks.

As far as tools go, the grandpa is very unfussy. He just gets stuff done. He'd probably find hundred quid knives ludicrous. He's got cheap hatchets for dealing with firewood and there will be a local billhook somewhere for bamboo. These things cost 2 or 3 quid each.

If anyone has any questions, ask away. I could take photos if there's a way to upload them - and anyone is interested.

Do your gf's grandparents use any other interesting cooking methods?
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
Do your gf's grandparents use any other interesting cooking methods?
Well, they mostly stir fry and stew things in the big wok. My wife and I literally had a wedding dinner there two days ago. It's a tradition to make dumplings (jiaozi) the day after the wedding, so grandpa's sisters led that and I was the moron who made the ugly ones. They were steamed over the big wok. On the actual wedding day we had a function room for dinner, but lunch was at the house. We had six tables of relatives and a few catering people who made dishes like sweet and sour ribs, deep fried fish, shrimp, lobster with egg yolk coating (the best), crab, chicken soup, and quite a few other things.

Bushcraft techniques like burying food with hot coals, etc, wouldn't make sense in a domestic context. Interestingly, I found out that people in that area grow their own cooking oil. They grow rapeseed and take the seed to a shop in the village to get it pressed.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
Well, they mostly stir fry and stew things in the big wok. My wife and I literally had a wedding dinner there two days ago. It's a tradition to make dumplings (jiaozi) the day after the wedding, so grandpa's sisters led that and I was the moron who made the ugly ones. They were steamed over the big wok. On the actual wedding day we had a function room for dinner, but lunch was at the house. We had six tables of relatives and a few catering people who made dishes like sweet and sour ribs, deep fried fish, shrimp, lobster with egg yolk coating (the best), crab, chicken soup, and quite a few other things.

Bushcraft techniques like burying food with hot coals, etc, wouldn't make sense in a domestic context. Interestingly, I found out that people in that area grow their own cooking oil. They grow rapeseed and take the seed to a shop in the village to get it pressed.
Congratulations! 祝你们幸福!
Sounds like you had a lovely meal.

Interesting re growing their own cooking oil, but I guess they can use the leftovers as animal feed as well, so two for one.

I've seen what looks like homemade clay ovens and various other contraptions that I'm not sure of the purpose of, so I was mainly thinking along those lines. :)
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
Congratulations! 祝你们幸福!
Sounds like you had a lovely meal.

Interesting re growing their own cooking oil, but I guess they can use the leftovers as animal feed as well, so two for one.

I've seen what looks like homemade clay ovens and various other contraptions that I'm not sure of the purpose of, so I was mainly thinking along those lines. :)
谢谢!

I've seen a of small fields of rapeseed around the Hangzhou area, too. With the infrastructure there to get it cheaply pressed, it's probably very economical to grow your own. Chinese cooking uses quite a lot of oil and it isn't the cheapest ingredient. I wouldn't be surprised if the waste from the rapeseed was given to the goats. I haven't seen any kind of oven there, but there may be one around.


Incidentally, we've decided to stay in Hangzhou for one more year and then try to move in with the grandparents, so this may be my life soon.
 

SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
Incidentally, we've decided to stay in Hangzhou for one more year and then try to move in with the grandparents, so this may be my life soon.
Ooo, that’s exciting news! Hangzhou seems like a nice city, but living somewhere smaller and closer to family seems like a better option in many ways. At least you have time to plan everything now.
 

swotty

Space and time
Apr 25, 2009
1,768
168
Somerset
Wow, this is a fascinating thread, don't know why I haven't spotted it before! What an amazing place, it's great to be able to read about a country I really don't know too much about from this perspective. Excellent stuff...keep it coming

Sent from Somerset using magic
 

philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
Ooo, that’s exciting news! Hangzhou seems like a nice city, but living somewhere smaller and closer to family seems like a better option in many ways. At least you have time to plan everything now.
Hangzhou has a lot going for it. It's my day off and I'm back in that mountain village. The artist guy I met (his English name is Seven) has organised an event with a group of calligraphers and painters. No idea what's going on, but I got a motorcycle ride to the mountains and will check it out. Still, being near family and having a permanent home would be better. There are no mountains there, but I would just have to go for longer rides looking for them. :)
 
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philaw

Settler
Nov 27, 2004
571
43
40
Hull, East Yorkshire, UK.
Wow, this is a fascinating thread, don't know why I haven't spotted it before! What an amazing place, it's great to be able to read about a country I really don't know too much about from this perspective. Excellent stuff...keep it coming

Sent from Somerset using magic
Thanks! Maybe we could host visitors if we renovated the little cottage authentically. It's not a tourist area, but people who are not familiar with China could get a ride from Shanghai airport, spend a couple of days chopping down bamboo and stir frying stuff, then hop on a train to Nanjing and beyond.
 
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SaraR

Full Member
Mar 25, 2017
718
438
Ceredigion
Hangzhou has a lot going for it. It's my day off and I'm back in that mountain village. The artist guy I met (his English name is Seven) has organised an event with a group of calligraphers and painters. No idea what's going on, but I got a motorcycle ride to the mountains and will check it out. Still, being near family and having a permanent home would be better. There are no mountains there, but I would just have to go for longer rides looking for them. :)
Sounds like an excellent excuse. :D

It certainly feels more worthwhile putting effort and money into a place if it's yours long-term.

How does it work moving away from a city, will you lose access to city hospitals as a result? (I know it can be an issue for people moving *to* cities.)
 

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