The other day somebody mentioned we might visit a place near Chiang Mai that makes elephant poo paper. Since then, my mind has been on fire with a new dream. I can’t sleep for thinking about:
- the history of paper and the evolution of the book
- traditional papermaking
- sustainable practice
- cottage industries
- regional variations: China, South-east Asia, Middle East, Europe
- papermaking – science, technology, engineering; sustainability; environment; economics;
- papermaking – art and design
- humanity’s relationship with the book/narrative/story/words
- papermaking – art therapy, social enterprise, environment
I have 7 months left in China to uncover the secrets of traditional Chinese papermaking. I have discovered most of it happens in the south of China, such as Anhui province. As we are north – closer to Beijing than Shanghai – I have been searching for bullet trains and cheap flights that might take me to villages where paper is still made by hand. So far it is proving elusive. There are plenty of articles, but not many tours. Yunnan province is another area where the Miao minority are known for making paper, and I have discovered a tour company that sounds very cool, so am investigating.
Papermaking is one of the Four Great Inventions of ancient China. Xuan paper, found in Jing province (Jingxian) has been listed by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. The World Bank are supporting villages in south China to continue their traditional papermaking (among other things).