Papermaking In Ancient China Essay

1. Abstract The purpose of this report is to discuss the invention of paper and paper history in various countries in Asia. Among Asian countries, ancient China will be emphasized due to the fact that invention of papermaking attributed to Chinese inventor. The flow of papermaking technology in Asia will also be mentioned in the following discussion. The introduction part provides the background of writing materials and papermaking invention,

2. Introduction Before 105 A.D, writing materials varied from clay around 3100 B.C, to Egyptian papyrus around 3000 B.C, to bamboo books from 1500 B.C, to wax and woods from 5th century B.C, and to Pergamum and parchment from 2nd century B.C. [1] It’s not convenient to write on these materials and hard to transport and storage these substances. During 105 A.D., one of the four great inventions of ancient China contributed a wide-reaching invention to the world—papermaking. Cai Lun (Ts’ai Lun) improved the quality and efficiency of paper production and reduced the cost of paper. Paper replacing bamboo and silk became the most useful material for printing and writing. The invention of papermaking greatly accelerates the spread and expansion of culture.

3. Invention of Papermaking 3.1 Origins of Paper The first paper-like writing material, also called a traditional and original papyrus, was used in Egypt about 3000 B.C [3]. Cyperous Papyrus is a plant that grows wild and common all over the Nile river valley [4]. Papyrus is softened, hydrated, deposited, and dried under sun to form a thin sheet used for writing. Since it was lightweighted and easily portable [3] than white clays, papyrus sheet was the most widely used in Egypt. After 2000 years usage only in Egypt, around 1000 B.C, papyrus was exported to countries in West Asia. The functions of papyrus were similar to those papers but the cost of one sheet of papyrus was so high that when Cai Lun (Ts’ai Lun) invented papermaking process, people abandoned papyrus quickly.

3.2 The Birth of True Paper Before the invention of paper, humans experienced using bamboo, wax leaves and woods, Pergamum and parchment, and silk cloth as writing media. Nevertheless, during Eastern Han Dynasty, with the economic and cultural development, bamboo slips and fine silk couldn’t satisfy the needs of writing because fine silk was expensive and bamboo slip was heavy. Therefore, the birth of papermaking impressed ancient Chinese and became one of the greatest inventions in the world. In the year of 105 A.D., Cai Lun working as an official of Han government invented and refined the process of papermaking.

Cai Lun created a large number of papers, which were suitable for writing, by creatively using barks, hemps, wall cloth and nets as feedstocks [5]. The feedstocks are repeatedly soaked, pounded, washed, boiled, strained and bleached to make slurries and then water in the mush are drained and dried [1]. After reported to Emperor, Ho-Ti, of Han Dynasty, the new papermaking process was widely applied. Whereas, there are few literatures about history of papermaking technology in Han Dynasty, so it is difficult to understand completely the detailed process of Cai Lun’s papermaking. There are some speculations about procedures, which can be just used as reference [7].

3.3 Improvement of Papermaking In the late Easter Han Dynasty, papermaking process was developed well compared to Cai Lun’s years. A talented paper maker called Zuo Bo [8] from Shandong Province improved paper appearance. He initiated calendaring technique, which can improve the surface properties of paper in order to make shinny and beautiful surface. Around 3rd to 4th century A.D., paper has replaced silks and bamboos and became the major writing material in China, as promoted the dissemination and development of science and culture [9].

Later, Wei, Jin, North and South Dynasties became one of the developing eras of papermaking. Firstly,in addition to hemp and nets, mulberry and rattan leather were also applied as feedstocks to form paper. Meanwhile, papermaking technology and tools changed significantly. As a result, papers were thinner, the attrition rate of pulp was reduced, and production yield was increased. Also whiteness degree was higher and smoother surface was achieved. At the same time, adding sizing agents and fillers were also found to be an approach to obtain better paper [9].

Recent archaeological investigations, however, place the actual invention of papermaking some 200 years earlier. [6]

4. Spread of Papermaking in Asia countries 4.1 Expansion of Papermaking inside Ancient China After 105 A.D., papermaking process flowed from Henan province to the rest of the developed economic and cultural cities. As Cai Lun migrated to Sichuan province, the technique was delivered there too. As a result, Henan and Sichuan became two earliest provinces that utilized paper instead of bamboo and silk. During 3rd century A.D, people in Tibet learned how to make paper.

4.2 Spread of papermaking outside Ancient China Around 3rd century A.D, the technique began spreading to Vietnam. Afterward, papermaking moved to ancient Korea from China as early as the 6th century A.D [6]. At that time, the feedstocks for producing paper were hemp, rattan, mulberry, bamboo, seaweed, and rice straw. The various feedstocks used for writing materials show the development of papermaking technique. The technology had reached a higher stage. Around 610 A.D, a Korea monk called Don-cho brought this process to Japan and firstly, paper was just used for official records and documentation [6]. The application and demand of paper wasn’t high in ancient Japan until the arriving of Buddhism from India [6]. Because of the need of dissemination of missions, Japanese started producing more papers for daily use.