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Xuan Paper Making

Xuan Paper Making

Paper-making is one of the four great inventions of China and Xuan paper is one of the Four Treasures of Study (writing brush, ink stick, ink stone and paper). It is the outstanding representative of traditional handmade paper with a history of more than 1500 years. 

Xuan paper is produced in the southwest of Jing County, Anhui Province. The mild climate, abundant rainfall and special Karst mountain area provides a favorable environment for the growth of the Tara Wingceltis tree (also known as Blue Sandalwood Pteroceltis tatarinowii) and rice; both plants are used as the raw material for making paper. There are many rivers in Jing County, especially two tributaries upriver of Wu Stream, one of which is mildly alkaline and thus suitable for processing the raw material and the other mildly acidic, and so suitable for producing paper.

The tree bark is used as the main material of Xuan paper and mixed in proportion with rice straw. There are more than 140 steps involved in producing various types of Xuan papers. With continuous innovation new papers have been successfully invented since 1949. 

Xuan paper has a strong, smooth surface and a pure, clean texture. Because of its resistance to creasing, corrosion, moths and mould, it is known for its longevity. When Guo Moruo, the famous Chinese author and scholar, paid a visit to the Xuan paper factory in Jing County, he said: “Xuan paper is an artistic creation made by Chinese working people. Without it, Chinese calligraphy and painting cannot express the glamour of art.” The traditional characteristics are enhanced by the manual production of Xuan paper which does not use modern machinery. 

Chinese people have loved Xuan paper since the days of the Tang Dynasty. It reached its heyday during the Qing Dynasty and many brands appeared, such as Wang Liuji and Wang Tonghe; these won big prizes time and again at home and abroad. Now their brand Hong Xiong has become a famous national brand entitled to Band of Origin protection from the Department of Technical Supervision. It is also becoming popular in Japan and other places that love fine paper.

Today Xuan Paper faces many challenges: those who grow the trees and rice for the raw materials are finding it hard to make a living, and imitators, particularly those of lower quality, also threaten the brand, hence there is no certainty for the future of this amazing paper with its long, proud history.