The magical function of birch bark of Oroqen Ethnic Group
There are many birches in the Great and Small Xingan Mountains where the Oroqen people live. The diligent Oroqen people don’t waste the endowment of the nature and with their dexterous hands, they change the birches and barks into various household appliances and craftworks such as birch bark vessels and birch bark boats, which form the simple but delicate birch bark culture.
In the early summer of every year, the birches are rich in moisture and it is the right season for Oroqen people to denude the fell. They select those sturdy, straight and smooth birches. They use a knife to make each gash around the trunk on the top and bottom and then make a gash between the top gash and the bottom gash. They use hands to split the fell, and then get the full piece of birch fell. In the next year, the new fell can grow out again.
All the Oroqen people, no matter old or young and man or woman, are the skillful craftsmen of making birch fell products. They are all able to make various articles for use by using the birch fell and the thread twisted with horsetail or the tendon of roe, deer and elk. They can carve various patterns on the articles as well. The large-sized articles include: suitcase, water pot and basket. The middle-sized articles include: basin, hatbox, needle and thread box and the little barrel used for collecting and storing wild fruits. The mini-sized articles include: bowl, cigarette case and medicine box. Besides the common articles for use, the Oroqen people can also use birch fell to build boats. The birch boats are long and narrow. Generally, the width is less than 1 meter and the length is about 5 meters. The boat’s framework with both ends cocked is made up of two deals and the bilge and shipboard are made of large piece of birch fell without holes. There is no iron nail in the boat. Every part of the boat is fixed with nails chopped from deal. Two or three persons are allowed in this kind of boat. People can row the boat with a single oar. The sound of rowing is low, which is helpful to row the boat for hunting. It is easy to get close to the quarry and to capture beasts.
The birch products are easy to make, solid and endurable. They are not afraid of water or impact and are portable. One person can cross the river by using the boat and can also bind the boat onto his body when disembarking.