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Papermaking
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

               Bamboo Sheet, Silk, Paper
Papermaking
(zàozhǐshù 造纸术) is one of the four great inventions in ancient China. Before papermaking technology was invented, the Chinese carved or wrote caharacters on totoise shells, animal bones, bamboo slices, wooden plates, and thin tough silk. Tortoise shells, animal bones and wooden plates were too heavy to use while silk was too expensive. In the early years of the Western Han Dynasty (xīhàn 西汉) (206 BC – 25AD), someone used hemp and ranie to produce the paper, which was very rough and not suitable for writing.

Process of PapermakingTill the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220)(dōnghàn 东汉), an official named Cai Lun (càilún 蔡伦) attached to the Imperial court during the Han Dynasty (hàncháo 汉朝)(202 - 220 ), created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste. He steamed and cooked all those materials with water, and pounded them into pulp, then rolled the pulp out evenly on a fine screen and dried it into a kind of thin paper. The paper was suitable for writing and was also very cheap so it became very popular. Therefore, Cai Lun’ contribution to the papermaking was great.


altAfter the Eastern Han Dynasty, the papermaking technology had been gradually improved. And then bamboo, straw and sugarcane residue could also be used as the raw materials for making paper. Due to different materials, various types of paper were produced for different uses. For example, the Xuan paper (xuānzhǐ 宣纸) made in Xuanzhou (xuānzhōu 宣州)of Anhui (ānhūi 安徽) Province belongs to the high-quality paper exclusively adapted for use in Chinese calligraphy and painting.

The technology was introduced to Korea and Japan in the late Sui (suí 隋)(581-618) and early Tang (táng 唐)(618-907) dynasties, and later to Arabia and other countries. During the Tang Dynasty paper was folded and sewn into square bags to preserve the flavor of tea, while the later Song Dynasty (sòng 宋)(960-1279) was the first government on Earth to issue paper-printed money.

The invention of paper provides a more convenient way for the storage and communication of information, and also has an epoch-making significance on the promotion the development of global civilization.

造纸术
      造纸术是中国古代四大发明之一。在造纸术发明以前,中国人把字刻在龟甲、兽骨上,写在竹片、木片和绢帛上。 甲骨、木片都很笨重,用起来不方便;绢帛太贵,一般人用不起。大约在西汉初期,有人用大麻和苎麻造出了纸。这种早期的纸比较粗糙,不太适合写字。     Cai Lun

到了东汉时期,在朝廷做官的蔡伦认真总结了前人的经验,他认为扩大造纸原料的来源,改进造纸技术,提高纸张质量,就可以使纸张为大家接受。蔡伦首先使用树皮造纸,树皮是比麻类丰富得多的原料,这可以使纸的产量大幅度的提高。树皮中所含的木素、果胶、蛋白质远比麻类高,因此树皮的脱胶、制浆要比麻类难度大。这就促使蔡伦改进造纸的技术。西汉时利用石灰水制浆,东汉时改用草木灰水制浆,草木灰水有较大的碱性,有利于提高纸浆的质量。元兴元年(公元105年)蔡伦把他在尚方制造出来的一批优质纸张献给汉和帝刘肇,汉和帝很称赞他的才能,马上通令天下采用。这样,蔡伦的造纸方法很快传遍各地。

      东汉以后,造纸术得到不断改进,竹子、稻草、甘蔗渣等都逐渐成为造纸原料。因为原料不同,纸也有了各种不同的种类和用途。安徽省宣州生产的宣纸,就是闻名中外的上等纸张,是用于中国书法和绘画的珍品。

      中国的造纸术于隋末唐初传到朝鲜和日本,后来又传到阿拉伯地区和其他国家,纸的发明,极大地方便了信息的储存和交流,对于推动世界闻名的发展具有划时代地意义。

 

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