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Paper is a medium through which human emotions are expressed, as well as a manifestation of our desire to record our culture. Humans originally expressed this desire on cave walls, rocks, clamshells and metal pieces;however, we soon wanted a medium that could be preserved for a long time and that could be carried around with us. That's how we came to invent paper.
Hanji the Colorful
Paper was believed for a long time to have been invented in the 2nd century B.C., by a Chinese man named Chae Ryun, from the Han Dynasty. However, in 1995, traces of paper dating back to B.C. 179 ~ B.C. 87 were unearthed in Sichuan, China. This event refuted the claim that Chae Ryun was the inventor of paper, and proved that paper had already been introduced far before his time.
When the art of papermaking was introduced to Korea, we took this technique, developed it into our own, and created a tough and solid paper known as Hanji, or Korean paper. As the Korean adage "Paper lasts for a thousand years and silk lasts for five hundred years" tells us, Hanji is a valuable cultural asset that reflects the implicit tenacity of the Korean people.
The main material used to make Hanji is the year-old stem of the mulberry tree, a deciduous shrub. Like any plant the qrowth of the mulberry tree is larqely largely affected by its environment.
The soil and the climate affect the characteristics of the tree, such as its width and length, which in return determine the quality of the paper. Our ancestors well understood the characteristics of the mulberry tree; they gathered the tree in the fall, boiled it in traditional lye to create mulberry starch, and used it as a dispersing agent as well as an adhesive. Hanji made from mulberry bark is extremely tough and durable, and known to be the longest lasting acid-free paper in the world.
Compared to Japanese or Chinese paper, which is made from a mixture of mulberry bark and other materials, Hanji is solid, and shows the texture of the mulberry fiber. The durability of the paper is also largely affected by the manufacturing method. A long reed screen is used both in front and back, but there is no frame in the upper area; this allows the mulberry materials to freely flow in all directions, creating a paper that is evenly durable. In the case of Japanese and Chinese paper, a long reed screen is used on the left and right and the material is gathered between the upper and lower frames before it is swayed back and forth. This creates a paper that tears easily.
Hanji, Paper That Breathes Alive
As such, Hanji is a crystallization of the wisdom of our ancestors, who took a foreign skill and developed it into a more exceptional and unique cultural asset.
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