or Shuen paper
or rice paper
, is a kind of paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....
originating in ancient China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...
used for writing and painting. Xuan paper is renowned for being soft and fine textured, suitable for conveying the artistic expression of both Chinese calligraphy and painting.
Xuan paper was first mentioned in ancient Chinese books Notes of Past Famous Paintings
and New Book of Tang
The New Book of Tang , is a classic work of history about the Tang Dynasty edited by Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi and other official scholars of the Song Dynasty. The emperor called for a revision of the former Book of Tang in 1044. The New Book was presented to the throne in 1060. It was given its...
. It was originally produced in the Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...
in Jing County, Anhui
Jing County is a county in Anhui Province, People's Republic of China, under the jurisdiction of Xuancheng City. It has a population of 360,000 and an area of . The government of Jing County is located in Chengguang Town....
, as well as in neighboring cities such as Xuancheng and Taiping. The county was under the jurisdiction of Xuanzhou Prefecture in the Tang Dynasty, hence the name Xuan paper. By the Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...
, the paper producing industries in Huizhou, Chizhou and Xuanzhou were gradually transferred to Jing County.
Due to different producing methods, Xuan paper can be classified into Shengxuan
, and Banshuxuan
. Shengxuan (literally "Raw Xuan"), which is not specially processed, excels in its ability to absorb water, causing the ink on it to blur. Shuxuan (literally "Ripe Xuan"), however, is smeared on by Potassium alum
Potassium alum, potash alum or tawas is the potassium double sulfate of aluminium. Its chemical formula is KAl2 and it is commonly found in its dodecahydrate form as KAl2·12. Alum is the common name for this chemical compound, given the nomenclature of potassium aluminum sulfate dodecahydrate...
during its production, which results in its texture being harder and its ability to absorb water weaker. This feature makes Shuxuan more suitable for Gongbi
Gongbi is a technique in Chinese painting. The name is from the Chinese Gong chin meaning tidy . The technique uses highly detailed brushstrokes that delimits details very precisely and without independent or expressive variation. It is often highly coloured and usually depicts figural or...
rather than Xieyi, and more easily torn at the same time. Banshuxuan (literally "Half-ripe Xuan") has intermediate absorbability, between Shengxuan and Shuxuan.
Xuan paper features great tensile strength, smooth surface, pure and clean texture and clean stroke, great resistance to crease, corrosion, moth and mold. The majority of ancient Chinese books and paintings by famous painters that survived till today are well preserved on Xuan paper. Xuan paper won the Golden Award at the Panama International Exposition in 1915.
Material and Production
The material Xuan paper uses is closely related to the geography of Jing County. The bark of Pteroceltis tatarinowii, a common species of elm
Elms are deciduous and semi-deciduous trees comprising the genus Ulmus in the plant family Ulmaceae. The dozens of species are found in temperate and tropical-montane regions of North America and Eurasia, ranging southward into Indonesia. Elms are components of many kinds of natural forests...
in the area, was used as the main material to produce Xuan paper, as were lion and baby leopard skins. Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...
, along with several other materials, was subsequently added to the recipe in the Song and Yuan Dynasties. Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....
Morus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Moraceae. The 10–16 species of deciduous trees it contains are commonly known as Mulberries....
also began to be used to produce xuan paper around that time.
The production procedure of Xuan paper can be loosely described as an 18-step-process, and a detailed account would involve over a hundred. Some paper makers have invented steps which have been kept secret from others. The process includes steaming and bleaching the bark of Pteroceltis tatarinowii, as well as the addition of a variety of juices.