Traditional Chinese Paper for Painting and Calligraphy–the Current Situation and their Permanence  中國書畫用紙的現狀與耐久性研究

Gang  Chen 陳剛fermentation by  urine to make bamboo paper©Gang CHEN

Traditionally China developed the technique of making paper from hemp rag 2,000 years ago. Although papermaking materials and technique changed a lot of traditional Chinese paper is still used in painting and calligraphy today. It is also an important material for the restoration of ancient works.

In this research, several representative Chinese papermaking techniques such as Xuan Paper, bamboo paper, and new painting and calligraphy paper making techniques are introduced followed by an analysis of the current situation andtreatment of Chinese alpine rush to make new painting paper©Gang CHEN problems in Chinese painting and calligraphy papermaking.

One problem is the change in traditional papermaking processes such as the using of machines in pulping and chemical agents in cooking and bleaching to cut the cost. More than 10 kinds of Chinese painting and calligraphy paper made recently, such as Xuan paper, Lianshi paper, Maobian paper and different kinds of bast paper were selected to investigate their strength and durability after accelerated ageing. The result showed that some changes in papermaking sunlight bleaching of rice straw to make Xuan paper©Gang CHENprocesses, especially the using of caustic soda and bleaching agent caused a decline of paper’s quality and permanence.

Other problems include the change in raw materials and the lack of high quality handmade paper for painting and restoration of paper relics, etc. To raise productive efficiency the improvement of papermaking techniques is necessary but it should be based on scientific research.

Finally, the features and current situations of handmade paper in China and Japan are compared. The experience of sheet-forming of  Xuan paper makingpreservation of traditional papermaking techniques in Japan is discussed such as the investigation and scientific research on the traditional techniques, the scientifically improvement of the techniques to ensure the traditional features and the development of museums, symposiums, and other research exchange platforms.

CHEN Gang is Associate Professor of the Department of Cultural Heritage and Museology, Fudan University.  He has a Ph.D. in Conservation Science from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.  His fields of research include paper conservation, traditional papermaking and corrosion inhibition of metal. In recent years, his research focuses on the investigation and scientific studies of traditional papermaking in East Asia.

He is the member of National Technical Committee 289 on Cultural Heritage of Standardization Administration of China, and the executive member of Paper Cultural Relics Conservation Professional Committee of the society for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in East Asia.

*Photos ©Gang CHEN from head to bottom 1. Bamboo fermented in urine   2.Treatment of Chinese alpine rush to make new painting paper   3.Sunlight-bleaching of rice straw to make Xuan paper  4.Sheet-forming of Xuan paper