Korean Paper, Hanji, its History, Techniques and Properties
Minah Song

This research project presents the history of Korean paper, hanji, methods and materials used in the papermaking, characteristics of the paper, and scientific analysis of its properties. It has been preliminarily established that papermaking came to Korea from China, and might have been practiced there as early as the third century C.E., based on a piece of paper found in an ancient tomb, Chehyupchong (108 B.C.E. – 313 C.E.). Probably sometime between the third century C.E. and 751 C.E. Korean papermakers established their own methods of papermaking. It was during that period that the ‘Dharani Sutra’ was printed on paper made of paper mulberry, called ‘dak’ in Korean and ‘kozo’ in Japanese. The ‘Dharani Sutra’ is the first artefact demonstrating a specific technique in which the paper was treated by dochim, a burnishing process which reduces bleeding of ink. Dochim was later used throughout the Korean papermaking history. One traditional and unique Korean papermaking technique is the webal, invented to form a sheet which distributes fibres evenly in both directions; theoretically this results in less grain in the sheet and an expansion/contraction rate that is even in both directions. A variety of contemporary samples of Korean papers have been artificially aged and evaluated according to TAPPI standards at the Library of Congress in 2004. This project will present various data concerning tensile strength, brightness, and pH before and after aging as well as expansion and contraction measurements. The results are very promising for the possibility of using hanji for conservation treatment. The final part of the project will illustrate possible applications of hanji in art, discussing works by selected artists choosing traditional Korean paper as a preferred medium for contemporary artistic techniques.

Minah Song, Paper conservator, Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA)

Minah Song is a paper conservator in CCAHA in Philadelphia. She received an M.A. in East Asian Art History from the Academy of Korean Studies in Korea and an M.A. in Conservation from Camberwell College of Arts in London. She did internships at the Hammersmith & Fulham Archive, and Tate Gallery in London, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; and fellowships at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and Worcester Art Museum. Some of her presented and published research projects are: “Permanence, Durability and Unique Properties of Hanji”, co-authored with Jesse Munn (AIC Book and Paper Annual, 2005), “Conservation of a Group of Early 19th Century Chinese Export Flora Paintings” (AIC, 2007), “The History and Characteristics of Korean Books and Bookbinding” (JIC, 2009), “Can West Meet East? – Different Approaches to Conservation of East Asian Art” (East Asian Art: Historic Context & Modern Preservation of Paper-Based Works, 2010).
Email: mina_song@hotmail.com