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Hima Chinese basses

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by anonymous8547j7d7b, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    Sorry to get political, but having discovered the origin of these instruments I have to do something. These basses are the byproduct of intense deforestation by Chinese authorities in occupied Tibet & I would urge players & dealers to have nothing to do with them on ethical grounds. For more info on the Tibet situation try Amnesty International's website &/or www.tibet.com :help: :rollno:
  2. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    Would you mind telling where you got this info. I'm not doubting you, and I am aware of what is going on in Tibet but I would like to read the whole story.
  3. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I have been wondering about just this issue. For years I was under the belief that China was so deforested that pruning was the only timbering method allowed, other than cutting nature-downed trees. Then, in the last 15 years or so, the market becomes flooded with Chinese instruments made of gorgeous wood. Many of the basses seem to sell for less than what the wood should cost! Having recently read Jared Diamond's "Collapse", I am very concerned about wood-poor countries exporting deforestation. I try in my bass-making to know where every piece I use comes from; not always possible. I don't like the idea of singling out one company like HIMA. However, their name is supposedly attributable to the "Himalayan" source of their wood. Is this Tibetan resource depletion for real?
  4. This is one of those difficult catch 22's like with the Pernambuco wood. Just because we might stop buying (if we could) the wood, the demand for cleared land in Brazil will continue to go up, and the cutting would go on anyway with the wood going to waste. If the Tibetan wood is not made into basses, it would likely see some other use. We can't stop deforestation by not buying the Chinese instruments. Sometimes boycott gestures are only useful as a protest. I wonder if there are any countries in the world that actually have sustainable forestation practices? I have heard that the Carpathians are rapidly being clear cut as well. In this case it is by the Romanians themselves.

    On an encouraging note for the competitors of the Chinese producers,- the Chinese currency has been freed up to allow it to move up in value. This will result in a gradual increase in the cost of Chinese goods that will raise the prices of their exported goods over several years. According to the AJC business page today, China is the number 1 producer of violins.
  5. MontereyBass


    Sep 4, 2004
    The massive amount of wood that is being harvested in China is coming not primarily from Tibet, but instead from Yunnan and Szechuan provinces, areas to the south and southeast of Tibet. Western Szechuan is rugged and sparsely populated, with range upon range of forested mountains. Westerners primarily are familiar with this area because it is the home of the panda. In recent decades the natural resources of Szechuan and Yunnan have been ignored due to the internal political struggles that we are so familiar with, the Cultural Revolution being the most notable. With the demise of Maoism and the communist welfare state, and a full steam headlong plunge into capitalism, the abundant mineral resources of Szechuan, and the forest and hydraulic resourses of Yunnan are being carefully examined for plunder by both the central government and the financeers of Shanghai. Western Szechuan and its resources are located in remote areas that provide excellent camouflage for mining and forestry practices that would bring immediate cardiac arrest to any conservationist in the states. There is nobody there to complain and nobody to see the travesty except the loggers and miners. Many of the workers are illiterate, and for the first time in their life they are earning more than a subsistance living. You'll hear no complaints from them. Yunnan, the province in the southwest that borders Myanmar (Burma) and Vietnam, is blessed with a tropical rain forest of immense beauty. The inhabitants are not ethnic Chinese but are instead related culturally and linguistically to the hill tribe people of Burma, Vietnam and Laos. There are twentysix different minority groups (tribes) in Yunnan and they collectively hold little, if any, political power. Moreover, the ever increasing demand for electricity throughout China has caused the central government in Peking to move the plans for damming all the major water tributaries in Yunnan to the front of the "must do now" list. The local minority people have no say in the matter as development of energy resources is a national issue of primary importance. Ecological and cultural disturbances caused in minority group areas, home of non Han people, is of little matter to the politicians in Peking. Cutting roads through the forest, and even clear cutting the forest, gives the engineers access to huge mineral fields and sources of hydroelectric power, and gives the money people in Shanghai and Peking access to tremendously large amounts of cheap first growth lumber now, and large lucrative energy (oil and gas) resources later. As well, the lack of any semblance of national political government in the area of Myanmar abutting Yunnan allows the Chinese loggers to freely cross the border and harvest as much lumber as the trucks and roads will haul, and as much as the bribe money to local officials will permit. Once back in Yunnan, the lumber is listed as being harvested in China and no word is ever mentioned of Myanmar. So, not only are the forests of Southwest China being raped, but so are the forests of its neighbor as well. A century and a half of humiliation inflicted on China by the west, and two generations of life in poverty, repression and political anarchy under Maoism, have caused the Chinese people to demand a better life now and the central government is petrified of the consequences, the potential political upheaval that could possibly occur, if they fail to provide that life. They are not going to let a handful of environmentalists in foreign countries or a few minority tribes in a far away corner of the empire stop them. As I write, the Three Gorges, a place of immense beauty and a site of monumental signifigance in Chinese history, is being flooded to create a hydroelectric dam of tremendous proportions. If the politicians are willing to dam the Three Gorges, a site whose beauty has been writen about by the greatest poets in Chinese history, then you can be sure that the politicians are willing to cut down the primeval rain forests of Yunnan, of Xixuangbanna, to get at productive hydroelectric sites. The clear cutting of the forests is a gift to the loggers who are opening up the roads for eventual use by the surveyors, engineers and construction crews. The same can be said for Western Szechuan. Loggers will provide roads to huge untapped fields of oil, natural gas, coal, iron, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, platinum, gold and nickel, among other resources. Deforestation is not a major concern of the politicians in Peking. They are far, far more concerned about the social and political consequences of not meeting the ever increasing energy demand of heavily populated Eastern China. The access to new sources of oil and natural gas alone makes the ecological degradation unimportant. The present large supply of beautiful wood won't continue indefinitely. The forest is a finate source and soon the supply will dry up. In twenty years the forests in those areas will be gone. What is happening is not unlike what occured in the Redwood forests of Northern California a hundred plus years ago. Short term economic goals are trumping sensable sustainable use, and we are helpless to stop it as greed, power and fear are in control. Common sense is AWOL and is not to be found. It is sad to see these forests cut down, but sadder still to see the wood used primarily to make throw away items, schlock, for WalMart and its cousins. The world's dumps are being filled with worthless doodads that are made of wonderful wood from the forests of Southwest China. I feel no remorse for owning an Eastman 305 as I realize that the wood used in the instrument was put to good use. It has brought pleasure not only to me, but to many others as well. The wholesale devistation of the forests of Southwest China is not being driven by the quality bass makers of this world. There are larger and more powerful forces driving this than a few eccentric tonal perfectionists. In our present wasteful world the quality bass makers are saving some lovely wood from ending up prematurely in the garbage heap, and in doing so, have brought some beauty, a special quality, back into the world. There is nothing wrong with making something beautiful from a limited resource that otherwise would likely be wasted.
  6. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
  7. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Agreed, and such boycotts are a statement of principle that are, I recognize, personal. Each individual must draw the line for him/herself. Some choose not to buy fur, others do and justify the purchase by noting that the animal would have been killed anyway. Some choose to patronize WalMart aware of their less-than-equitable business practices while, for others, the aversive nature of those practices is sufficient to cause them to avoid that retailer. To each his own.
  8. Mike Carr

    Mike Carr

    Feb 5, 2002
    Hong Kong
    I've got to chine in, it's just different here than in the west.
    Yeah, I bought a Chinese bass too, it's great, a Shen, made of some of most wonderful looking willow you could ever imagine seeing, sounds great too! Sam Shen told me it's Chinese wood. So enough about the Tibet thing, as It relates to Shen basses.
    As to the rape of the forrests, no comment. Except that one has to have a sense of how little money-wise that the average Chinese person has. Here in Shanghai there are millions of people here that have come from rural areas, the hinterlands so to speak. Some are former migrant farm workers, who's yearly income from farming might have been well under $100 USD per year. They come to Shanghai, get jobs in resturants or whatever, and work their tails off. For next to nothing. I know a girl here who moved from some village with her Mom and Dad, she works doing a job that most western girls wouldn't dream of doing, she rubs peoples feet all day long. She makes about $5 USD a day at her job, and is doing very well, by her standards. Supporting her parents too. There are millions here, making small money, yet glad to have their work, whatever it is, whatever it pays.
    I guess I don't really have much of a point, except to say that one has to get out of places like America, and really see how other people live in order to appreciate how and why countries like China are so keen to take their place along side the "major powers" like the U.S.
    Yes, the Chinese work very hard, for next to nothing by western standards. That's why they can provide those goods that Wal-Mart sells for cheap, that we from the west gobble up with such glee.
    But I have never in my life seen such a spirit of serenity in a people as a whole, as I've seen in the Chinese. People do simple things, simply wonderfuly. From the lady that cleans my apartment once a week( who's pay is just 80 cents U.S per hour, but nevertheless has managed to raise kids on that pay) to guys like Shen, who does not so simple a thing, like making a bass.
    Once again...it's just different here.
  9. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan
    Point taken, but the thread was started specifically about HIMA basses. They *are* made from wood taken from Tibet. A few years ago on the 2xbasslist, the maker, named Du Tao IIRC, proudly told us all about his basses made with the most beautiful wood in the world, from the mountains of Tibet. He even sent pictures of the wood being harvested. It started quite a row, with some people being upset that he was allowed to do this regardless of the wishes of the Tibetans, and others interpreting his comments to mean that he was somehow involved in trying to be responsible about harvesting the wood. I never really knew what to think, as Mike points out, it's really hard to put it (and Du Tao's motivations) in proper context. He could be making instruments out of Tibetan wood because he knows the Chinese government is gonna cut it all down anyway, or he could be doing it just because good wood is getting scarcer and scarcer in China proper (as he stated). I guess it's not so much the cutting down of the forests that bothers some people, but that Tibet is an occupied territory, and the occupiers may be using up the resources that some feel belong to the Tibetans. To me, that may put it in another category than Yunnan and Szechuan provinces.

    Anyway, I agree you can't stop progress, and it's not just a black and white issue, but we don't have to "help it along" either. The wood *is* from a Chinese maker harvesting the Tibetan forests, which some of the Tibetans apparently object to. Jaydbass just wants people to know, so they can include that information in choosing whether or not to buy from this specific maker.

    Brent Nussey
  10. Considering the complexity of the issues driving the deforestation of China and Tibet that Montereybass has elaborated on, lets solve the problem for our collective conscience by just saying no to Hima basses? We'll all sleep better I'm sure.
  11. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    There has still been no proof provided here that this wood is from Tibet. Pictures that you saw a while back? How do you even know the pictures of the wood being harvested were Tibet?
  12. Brent Nussey

    Brent Nussey

    Jun 27, 2001
    Tokyo, Japan

    Hehe. Ok, fair enough. I thought I was clear about this, but I guess not. I know this because Du Tao, the maker of HIMA basses, said so. He isn’t (wasn’t?) trying to hide it or anything. Perhaps this is inappropriate, but you can access those old posts at http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/dcspaul/basslist/archive.shtml Search for Du Tao or HIMA.
    Du Tao’s own email on the subject:

    From: "HIMA" <HIMA@PUBLIC.tpt.tj.cn>
    Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1999 17:02:25 +0800

    I am the Chinese bass maker and I made "HIMA"bass. Many thanks for Peace
    Musiktoy's message. I think this is a very important problem for
    everyone and for our earth.
    Attached are some photos of Himalayan view.I took the photos in Tibet in
    1997-1998.You will find the Himalayan maples in two photos.
    Wolcome everyone send message to me regarding this subject.
    Best wishes!
    Du Tao

    Unfortunately the photos can’t be seen at the archive, just strings of characters. Maybe someone knows how to reconstitute them….

    Anyway, if you’re really interested, there are several more posts and much discussion of how to interpret what he wrote. I’m not really up for rehashing it, it wasn't one of our proudest moments, but it’s there, if anyone wants. One of the guys on the list eventually became a sort of dealer for him here in the US, if he’s around, maybe he can give some more definitive explanation of Du Tao’s motives and practices. Like I said, it wasn’t totally cut and dried. But he always acknowledged that he used wood from Tibet for his basses.

    Anyway, the marketing has changed a bit. The web page now says: “In 1958 my father established a workroom of making string instruments for the National Philharmonic Orchestra. At that time, my father had three employees.”…… “The material of our string instruments, like maple and spruce, all come from the Himalayas - the highest altitudes plateau - for the excellent sound and the fine fiame.”

    However, someone copied the page at the time to the list and it read: “In 1958 my father established a workroom of making string instruments for the National Philharmonic Orchestra. At that time, my father had three employees, now we have 370 employees in our factory and 26 employees in our sales company. The export of our instruments began in 1979.” “The material of our string instruments, like maple and spruce, all come from Tibet - the highest altitudes plateau in the west of China - for the excellent sound and the fine fiame.”

    So I guess someone explained to him that Tibet was kind of a hot button in the west. Anyway, just to be clear, I’m not trying to say I understand what’s going on with HIMA basses, or whether it’s ethical to buy one or not. I imagine that we should consider ourselves lucky to live in places where we can afford those kind of ethics. However, you asked me to prove the wood was from Tibet. There’s nothing to prove, Du Tao's the one who said so.

  13. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
  14. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    Thanks to Brent for clarifying the issue with the links/interview (my source also). Montereybass raises some good points - the situation in China is complex. The situation in Tibet is not. It has been invaded,annexed, had its environment raped & suffers ongoing cultural genocide. Geographically it certainly isn't a "corner of the empire" either.
    As far as the basses go - yes, the wood is beautiful, ideal and will probably be deforested anyway - but the instruments are @ very best only passable.
    As my final word, please check out these links & make up your own minds.
    www.freetibet.org http://www.alford.uklinux.net/tibet/boycott.html
    http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engasa170042001 :help:
  15. If we all didn't know that this referred to Tibet at the hands of China in the present day, one might think jaydbass was writing about the American west in the 1860's, the American East Coast during the 1600's, 1700's, All of South and Central America from 1500 to the present day, Most of Central Europe during the Roman annexation of Gaul, etc. ad infinitum. In Britain at one time a squirrel could travel from coast to coast without ever touching the ground the forests were so thick and continuous.

    One will do very little to change the economics and power structures that drive these types of exploits by not buying a Hima bass. Whatever wood you buy comes from a forest exploited by the same economic structure. Unless you go out and ethically harvest the wood yourself, you are no better in any way than the maker of the Hima basses. To blame the economic structure of environmental devastation on one single instrument maker and scapegoat that maker personally is the height of arrogance, stupidity, and self-centered flat earth thinking.

    We should consider ourselves a pack of fools as well.

    As much as I dislike slogans, one comes to mind: Think Globally, act locally. So jaydbass, how many spruces have you planted in Scotland this year? How many Yew?
  16. Aleph5


    Feb 24, 2004
    Easy, dude. He did say that the China situation is complex, that "though the wood is beautiful, ideal and will probably be deforested anyway ... the instruments are @ very best only passable," and "make up your own minds."

    Talking about being preachy, I don't think jaydbass deserved the lecture.
  17. OK, I'm sorry to be preachy. Sometimes when people start a primarily political thread it invites that. I just think the Hima builder is being scapegoated for what is truly a widespread global evil. If we want fair and responsible resource use, we shouldn't ignore China, but we need to look beyond China as well. There is much that can be done to reforest the world in any country. Plant a tree in a safe place. If fate is with you it will hold a few basses worth of new wood one day. Then play the double bass with a clean conscience. Or if you are really troubled, plant a tree each time you buy or build something made of wood. Become the change that you envision. :)
  18. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    "To blame the economic structure of environmental devastation on one single instrument maker and scapegoat that maker personally is the height of arrogance, stupidity, and self-centered flat earth thinking." :eyebrow: :eek:
    Easy dude indeed. I could take serious offence to that misguided diatribe SilverSorceror - especially as you have completely missed the point. Did I not say that these instruments are the BY-PRODUCT of deforestation by the Chinese authorities. Fundamentally, this issue isn't about deforestation, whether on a local or global scale. It's about Tibet & the Chinese occupation as a whole. My intention is to draw attention to the situation (ie "Think Globally") so that we, the bass-playing community, can "Act Locally" by boycotting products relevant to us. If this can extend to other areas of our lives as well then so much the better. Please check out the links - they speak for themselves.
    Incidentally, spruce are doing not too badly here in sunny Scotland. Not too many oaks though - so I planted a seedling in the garden earlier this year :smug: . As to the impact of quality bass-making on the global forests:
    "For a hundred years stood silent in the forest,
    And now in death I sing..." (I forget the author) ;)
  19. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Silver, How many fine basses have you built? None? Yet you ruminate for pages on bass construction and repair as if you were an experienced expert. You call Jayd a fool for trying to act ethically with regard to Tibet and its occupation, stripping of resources, etc. Would you use fresh ivory in your work? The poachers are going to kill the elephants anyway, so why not use the ivory? Jayd is pointing out what he feels is an injustice, so you bring up past injustices by way of highlighting his "flat-earth" thinking. Do past injustices make current ones OK?
  20. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    I've seen that quote as:
    "When I lived, I was silent, now that I am dead, I sing!"
    It supposedly was written on the inside of an old German double bass. I can't remember where I saw that either. Maybe in Paul Brun's book?