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*Taiwan Chung Hsing Paper Corporation> Papermaking Principles> Evolution of Papermaking Technology

Evolution of Papermaking Technology
Pioneer in Papermaking Improvement

  The earliest paper in the world, the Fang-ma-tan paper (Lop Nor paper) was the very first excavated paper in China. It was found among the relics from the Feng-sui-ting Han Dynasty ruins at Lop Nor in Xinjiang in 1933. It proved that papermaking techniques already existed in early West Han Dynasty (around 49BC.)

  Although Cai Lun (63-121AD) of the East Han period is said to be the inventor of paper, he was actually just a key player in improvement of papermaking techniques. Papermaking is referred to as one of the four great inventions in ancient China, yet private individuals had already used plant fibers to make paper two centuries before Cai Lun. The product made from hemp or bulrush was too coarse to write on and what Cai Lun achieved made him a pioneer in improvement of papermaking.(Note 1 )

Commencement of the Paper Era
*   During the period of Wei, Jin, and North and South Dynasties, better raw materials for papermaking were developed and both the quality and quantity of paper as well as manufacturing techniques and tools were improved continuously. This allowed paper to become a major commodity in cultural and daily life. Therefore, it is appropriate to say the paper era commenced in the two Jin and Six Dynasties.
Emergence of New Raw Materials and Dyeing Techniques

   According to historical records, the famed calligrapher Xiao Cheng of Tang Dynasty started to make colored striped paper by steeping and removing the gelatin of wild hemp and steaming it with potash to produce the natural dye. Later on, processed paper was developed and rice paper, white linen paper, etc. also became available one after another. Patterning and dyeing techniques also began to mature soon afterwards.(Note 2 )

*Note 1:
During the early period of the reign of Zhang Emperor of Han Dynasty, Cai Lun was a xiao-huang-men (a low ranking eunuch.) When the He Emperor took the throne, he was promoted to the position of zhong-chang-shi and had the opportunity to partake in planning of national policies. He was talented and well versed, as well as loyal to the country and his job. Many times he risked the danger of offending the emperor by pointing out certain wrongdoings in the court’s administration. Later on, he was made shang-fang-ling to be in charge of production of court objects. It is generally believed that this was the time when he started to have contact with the best craftsmanship of East Han and thus had the opportunity to improve the papermaking techniques at the time.
*Note 2:
Xiao Cheng (dates of birth and death unavailable) was from Lanling (present day Lanling Town of Cangshan County in Shandong Province.) The celebrated calligrapher was also an expert in making striped paper. He was talented, good at writing, and a serious intellectual in the feudal society. He was particular and strict about his wording but quick at reasoning at the same time. With artistic talents across the board, he made remarkable achievements in Chinese calligraphy and held high regard for the practical and aesthetic value of calligraphy.
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