The History of Rice Paper
Around the beginning of Tang Dynasty, 618 - 907 AD, a fine paper was made from straw of rice in Xuancheng. This paper, known as rice paper to the world, was named after its producing area. Today, all similar kinds of paper carry its name although they are produced elsewhere in China.
This paper was first recorded in Chronicle of Masterpiece, a book written by Zhang Yanyuan, an art critic then. “It is appropriate to store hundred sheets of rice paper and size it before use.”
For some reason rice paper was not popular then. Painters continued for many centuries to prefer silk. It was until the maturity of ink painting in Song (960 - 1279 AD) and Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368 AD) that the paper was seen as a medium with more advantages, and dominantly used in painting, calligraphy and printing.
After hundreds of years of social upheaval, most of those cultural treasures have lost. What has survived from the Tang period is an important collection of Buddhist paintings found at Dunhuang, Gansu province, the Chinese end of the Silk Route. Since Dunhuang was under Tibetan occupation between 781 and 847, its cave shrines and paintings escaped destruction. The scroll paintings, dating from the eighth to the tenth century, were stored together with thousands of manuscripts.
Rice straw was sole ingredient in early rice paper production. Papermaker later adopted more sources as mulberry, wingceltis, and bamboo. Using bamboo as raw material dominated the paper industry since the 10th century.
The craft of rice paper spread to Korea and Japan around 7th century, and had sibling in Korean paper and washi.
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