Saturday, June 4, 2011

Korean paper - Hanji



Korean paper or hanji is the traditional name for Korean mulberry paper. It's made from the inner bark of the Paper Mulberry tree, called chomok which is native to Korea. Another important element in the paper making process is the oozy mucilage that comes from the roots of the Hibiscus, manihot plant.  This is added to the water and helps suspend the fibres.

Paper making originated in China and spread to Korea during the 6th Century.  (Japan uses a similar technique but it differs in the sheet formation technique). The papers are strong and versatile and can reportedly last over 1,000 years !!!!  Layers of hanji were used for armour and could stop arrows whilst four Korean books made from hanji and documented with it's history have been designated by UNESCO as 'Memory of the World Heritage'.
Sifting fibres and draining water onto racks

Wet sheets of hanji ready for drying

Drying hanji sheets on hot panels
Hanji has had many uses from making and covering books to covering windows and keeping their homes warm whilst at the same time letting the sunlight through.

During a visit to the Andong Poongsan Traditional Paper Making factory in 2002 I found this description of Korean paper:

1.  It absorbs dust and smells
2.  It has effect purifying and cleaning the air
3.  It protects your skin by intercepting harmful    
     ultraviolet rays
4.  The light penetrated through Korean paper  
     is soft to the eyes
5.  It has excellent absorption and emanation 
     natures
6.  It helps nature environment to be purified
7.  It isn't changed even after thousand years
8.  It makes strong and patient nature to be mild
9.  It makes you feel warm in winter and cool in  
      summer
10. It give you soft and quiet mood according to mix of dye to natural ingredients

You can check out their website at http://www.andonghanji.com/. It's all in Korean but you may want to navigate your way around to see the paper products they produce.

Unfortunately this is one of only a few  factories using the traditional paper making methods.  Like everything, technology is taking over and we all want things made more quickly so the majority of papers are made in automated factories and reportedly the finished papers are not of the same quality.

This is an overview of hanji where it's come from and how it can be used.  In future postings we'll look more closely at the way this paper can be used to make a wide variety of strong and durable goods.

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