Sunday, 1 June 2014

Praying Chinese Monk Leaves His Footprints Ingrained in Wooden Floor

HuaChi, a simple monk from China, has achieved something that only few are able to – he has left a mark in this world, quite literally. The pious man has knelt to pray in the exact same spot for nearly 20 years. He’s performed the ritual so many times that his footprints are deeply ingrained in the wooden floor of his temple, in the monastery town of Tongren, in Qinghai Province.

The highly disciplined monk follows a never-changing routine – he arrives at the temple steps every day before sunrise, places his feet on the footprints and prostrates a thousand times in prayer. Having done this for two decades, the wood beneath his feet has softened considerably, transforming into perfect footprints that are 1.2 inches deep.
When Hua Chi was younger, he would prostrate 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. “But I have grown older, so in recent years I have only done around 1,000 each day,” he said. Sometimes, during winter he can only manage 500. But even that is seriously impressive. After completing his prayers, he walks around the temple as well.

70-year-old Hua Chi hopes that his dedication and commitment towards his prayers will help him achieve a smooth transition to the afterlife. According to Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, the spirit goes through a process after death that determines it’s future – either nirvana or a return for rebirth. “I reconstructed this temple and have prayed and walked around the temple all these times so that after my death my spirit will not suffer,” said Hua Chi, who is also a doctor of traditional medicine.

His devotion is now a source of inspiration to the younger monks at the temple, which is located inside Rongwo Gonchen Gompa, an important Tibetan monastery in Tongren. The monastery is centuries old; it dates back to the year 1301. It is home to hundreds of monks who study Buddhist scriptures.

29-year-old monk Genden Darji is one of Hua Chi’s most ardent followers. He has spent several days admiring the older monk’s determination and wishes to carry forth the tradition by stepping into his footprints some day. “Every day I come here and every day I look at the piece of wood, and it has inspired me to continue to make the footprints myself,” said Darji.

Friday, 30 May 2014

The Bloodwood Tree

I wonder why it's called a 'Bloodwood' tree ?

Below is a picture of the Bloodwood tree (Pterocarpus angolensis) it is a deciduous, spreading and slightly flat-crowned tree with a high canopy. It reaches about 15 metres in height, has dark bark and is native to southern Africa. Bloodwood is also a name given to a native Australian variety (Corymbia Terminalis) and a genus of plants in the mulberry family (Brosimum Rubescens) native to tropical regions of the Americas and used for decorative woodworking.

Bloodwood tree (Pterocarpus angolensis)
Pterocarpus angolensis is a kind of teak native to southern Africa, known by various names such as Kiaat, Mukwa, and Muninga. It is also called the Bloodwood tree, so named for the tree’s remarkable dark red coloured sap. A chopped trunk or a damaged branch of the tree starts dripping deep red fluid, almost like a severed limb of an animal. The sticky, reddish-brown sap seals the wound to promote healing.

The red sap is used traditionally as a dye and in some areas mixed with animal fat to make a cosmetic for faces and bodies. It is also believed to have magical properties for the curing of problems concerning blood, apparently because of its close resemblance to blood. The tree is also used for treating many medical conditions such as ringworm, stabbing pains, eye problems, malaria, blackwater fever, stomach problems and to increase the supply of breast milk.

The wood makes high-quality furniture, as it can be easily carved, glues and screws well and takes a fine polish. It shrinks very little when drying from the green condition, and this quality, together with its high durability, makes it particularly suitable for boat building, canoes and bathroom floors.
Because of its great value to the indigenous peoples of the central and southern Africa, these trees are being harvested at an unsustainable rate leading to its decline in recent decades.

Watch the video below of the sawing of a Bloodwood tree.


Friday, 23 May 2014

Wooden Floors Outdoors

Being Fashionably Late Has Been Fashionable for Some Time
Wood floors go back to before the turn of the century and were installed outdoors.  Apparently if you were fashionably late to the opera house the sound of horse and carriage on the pavement was audible inside and caused a distraction.
End Grain Wooden Cobblestones. Photo courtesy Giorgio Verdiani.

Knowing that people would always be turning up fashionably late, these cobblestone wood floors were installed to deaden the sound of hoofs and carriages outside the opera thus making a late appearance less noticeable.  So much for a grand entrance.

End Grain Wood Cobblestones in a Running Bond Pattern. Photo courtesy of seoulrider.

The basic theory of Wood Block Flooring is centuries old. The ancients used the end grain of logs as “chopping blocks” because the tough end grain surface could withstand the pounding of hammers without splintering. End Grain blocks were once used out of doors as street pavers. For generations, wood blocks served the needs of city streets in Europe and in the United States, many of which still exist today. Edgar Allen Poe wrote an article in 1845 about street paving in Baltimore: “It is generally admitted, we believe, that as long as they last, the wood block pavements have an advantage over all others. They occasion little noise, they save a great deal of horsepower, pleasant to the hoof, and thus save the health of the horse-as well as some twenty or thirty per cent in the wear and tear of vehicles-and as much more, in time, to all travelers through the increased rapidity of passage to and fro”.

Hexagon End Grain Wood Floors. Photos courtesy of Kara Brugman.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bent Bamboo Bicycle

This bicycle is made from sustainable bamboo material and was designed by Alexander Vittouris, a design student at Australia’s Monash University. The young designer envisions a bicycle that isn’t built, but rather “grown” – the bent stalks are formed into the smooth curves gradually, while the bamboo stalk grows. (a concept that is inspired by ‘arborsculpture’ – the process in which tree branches are fixed into shapes as the tree grows). Vittouris has named the bamboo bike the “Ajiro”, It was in the running for various sustainable design awards in 2011 but as far as I can tell is still only in the prototype stage.

The manufacturing idea made Mr Vittouris a finalist for the James Dyson Award 2011, part of the Australian International Design Awards.
He said the bamboo frame would be fitted with other eco-friendly parts to make a functioning vehicle.
"It is a total rethink of how the manufacturing process works," Mr Vittouris, who designed the tricycle as part of a masters project, said.
"This concept is green and clean because the plant does all the work - the plant also acts as carbon storage and it eventually composts back into the soil."

Friday, 2 May 2014

Piano Tree

California state University, Monterey Bay  "Piano Tree"  in a forested area on their Disc Golf course.  A living installation by artist Jeff Mifflin.

Although the piano itself is believed to be just a stage prop which was cut apart then placed around the tree behind the California State University music department by artist Jeff Mifflin, the tree carried on growing and parting the timber of the piano for some time until a drunkard decided to smash it up.
Watch a video of an interview with Jeff Mifflin here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Xylothek - A Wooden Library

I have to admit that up until recently I had never heard of a Xylothek or xylotheque though I did have a clue, recognising the  'theque'  part,  put me in mind of  'bibliotheque'  originally from Ancient Greek βιβλιοθήκη (bibliothēkēbook-room).  And the xylon from the Greek xylon for "wood". So there you have it .... Wood library, how could  WeirdWood  not investigate that subject further !

But just as a library is something more than merely a collection of books, a xylotheque is something more than just a collection of wood. Almost all developed countries with worries about their flora have at least one xylotheque with their flora and one with flora from other places in the world.
The xylotheque with the largest number of samples is the Samuel James Record Collection of the Forestry School of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, which houses 60,000 samples. The second largest xylotheque belongs to the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. As of September 2004, it had 57,165 samples.The Thünen Institute of Wood Research in Hamburg has more than 37,000 samples.

The Schildbach Xylotheque of the Ottoneum (Natural History Museum) in Kassel (Hesse, Germany).

Wooden libraries - xylotheque or xylothek, flourished for a short period in history, around 1790-1810, mainly in Germany. They were a further elaboration of the cabinets of natural curiosities that were common during the 18th century, and consisted of simple pieces of wood specimens placed together in some kind of cupboard. In a refined form it took the shape of "books" where you could find details from the tree inside and arranged as a "library".

Each "book" describes a certain tree species and is made out of the actual wood for the covers. The spine is covered by the bark, mosses and lichens from the same tree are arranged inside. "Books" of shrubs are covered with mosses with split branches on both covers and spines.
Inside there are dried leaves, flowers, fruits, seedlings, a piece of the root, and cut branches.  In a compartment inside the spine lies a delicately written description of the tree, its biology and its practical use.

Below is another xylothek of a different style ~ this one seems a bit rougher, but still beautiful in its own unique way.

I think these wooden books are stunning, what great things to have displayed in a book case by themselves, real tactile educational tools.

I like to think that in a way the WeirdWood Blog is a Xylotheque, but in cyber format   :-)


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Rosary Bead, Carved in Boxwood

Rosary bead, carved in boxwood Bequeathed to the British Museum by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild

A rosary bead (sometimes referred to as a 'prayer nut' or 'paternoster bead') is characteristic of the minutely detailed, small-scale boxwood carvings used for private devotion. These types of delicate and complex objects were owned by members of the nobility or wealthy merchant classes in northern Europe, and were highly prized as masterpieces of carving and invention. A complete rosary, bearing the arms of England and probably dating to the first third of the sixteenth century, survives in the collections of the Dukes of Devonshire.

Renaissance jewellery was both decorative and functional. Rosary beads were used as memory aids for saying a series of prayers dedicated to the Virgin Mary. When not in use, they could be worn around the neck or waist. Even very religious people who shunned bodily adornment approved of rosary beads. During the Reformation, the practice fell out of favour in the Protestant countries but it remained popular among Catholics.

This spherical bead from the Waddesdon bequest in the British Museum is carved on the outside with Gothic architectural detail, while the interiors are carved variously with scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament. This boxwood rosary bead is only 2 5/8 inches (6.7cm) in diameter

The upper half is fitted with two doors, carved on both the inner and outer panels, which open to reveal the Crucifixion, crowded with miniscule figures in high relief. 

The Crucifixion

The lower half is fitted with one door, carved on both sides and opening to reveal a complex scene showing the Bearing of the Cross.

The Annunciation
The Bearing of the Cross

The achievement of these perspectives in both low relief and in high relief attests to the great skill of the craftsman, who probably had to work using a magnifying glass.

The word, ‘rosary’ is derived from the Latin rosarium, meaning a ‘garland of roses’ or ‘rose garden’, and denotes a set of prayer beads or the devotional prayer itself. A rosary provides a physical method of keeping track of the number of prayers said and is used in many religions for this purpose and also for meditation and even to relieve stress.

With kind permission from The British Museum