Wow. Okay, this one is going to be hard to write. I feel like I could write a blog post about each individual day I spent in China, but hopefully I can sum up my trip in this one. This summer I got the pleasure of going to China to study bamboo as a structural and design material. This opportunity was thanks to Prof. Xiao, who both works at USC and Nanjing Tech University. Every year he sponsors three Civil Engineering students to visit China and learn more about the applications of bamboo. I had never been to China before and I couldn’t believe I was getting sponsored (flight, lodging, and food included) to go there and learn how to use this natural material in innovative ways. When I look back on this experience I think about it in two ways: what I learned and what I explored.
Essentially, Professor Xiao’s research consists of replacing timber with engineered bamboo. The environmental benefits of doing so are immense because while a tree forest will take about 15 years to regenerate after it is cut down, a bamboo forest only takes 3 years to regenerate. (This is in part because bamboo is actually a type of grass!) From Professor Xiao’s research we got to learn how to engineer bamboo for it to be a structural material in everyday houses, but we also had the unique ability to learn how to use it in more aesthetic approaches from an afternoon with DASSO. DASSO is a design company that focuses on bamboo for interior and exterior decoration. DASSO has taken on many great projects such as the Madrid airport, and it even manufactures parts for IKEA furniture made out of bamboo. In DASSO’s showroom we also got to see other designs with bamboo such as a creative light fixture and even a bike.
Apart from learning the different applications of bamboo, I was able to explore a lot around China. In total, we went to four cities: Nanjing, Beijing, Hangzhou, and Liyang. All of which had their individual charm and history. The culinary experience was unlike any other. Most of the time I had no idea what I was eating, but I decided to stop questioning it and stay open minded about the plates that were ordered. Some of these plates included duck tongue, frog legs, and chicken feet. I was also amazed by the bike systems in the city where you just scan a bike with your phone and are free to leave it anywhere you want after, as opposed to specified stations.
A couple of other highlights included: visiting the Great Wall of China, meeting the students at Nanjing Tech, meeting Italian students who came from Italy to study bamboo as well, getting to know the other two students from USC who won the scholarship, visiting buddhist temples, visiting a bamboo forest, going tea-tasting on a tea mountain, and just countless of memories which made this experience so incredible. I am so thankful for USC and Professor Xiao for creating this opportunity and I hope to go back to China next year for a national Bamboo Conference!