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Learn Chinese - History and Culture

               Bamboo Sheet, Silk, Paper
(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





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