Sunday, March 6, 2011

'Hanji' the famous Korean traditional paper

The traditional Korean paper is known as Hanji, which is made from the bark of paper mulberry. It is strong and long-lasting, known for not discoloring, even after some 1,000 years.

During the Three Kingdoms period (57 BCE-668 CE), each of kingdom used paper to record their official histories. In 610, a Korean Buddhist monk named Damjing traveled to Japan and introduced papermaking methods, which indicates a the level of development in Korean papermaking by the beginning of the 7th century. The world’s oldest surviving wood block print is the Buddhist Dharani Sutra called the Pure Light Dharani Sutra (Korean: 무구정광대다라니경; Revised Romanization: Mugujeonggwangdaedaranigyeong).

Paper flowers made by artist Lee Soon-jae are on display at the "Korean Traditional Paper Craft Exhibition" held at Namsangol Hanok Village, central Seoul, Wednesday. / Korea Times

The paper is mainly used for literary purpose, but also popular as a construction material for window and door since it is good for lagging.

The traditional paper is also used in handicrafts, such as hanji dresses, paper dolls. In the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), ordinary people used scraps of paper to make folk art.

Hanji’s golden age peaked in the Goryeo period (918-1392), which saw the rise in quality and use of hanji in conjunction with printmaking. Paper was used to make money, Buddhist texts, and medical and history books. The government encouraged dak cultivation and paper production, and dak was planted countrywide in the 12th century. Often called Goryeoji, hanji became famous in Asia for its strength and luster, and became a heavy tribute item to China.

However, the Imjin wars of 1592 was a huge blow to the hanji industry. The Joseon government pressured Buddhist monks to increase their production of hanji that they were already making for Buddhist scriptures. As the final blow to hanji, western methods of paper mass production were introduced in 1884. The colonial period of 1910 to 1945 also undermined the hanji culture as it suppressed Korean culture in general, and machine-made paper’s cheapness and wide availability undercut hanji dramatically. In the 1970s, the New Village Movement that aimed to modernize Korea rapidly also led to further decimation of the hanji industry, as it eradicated traditional straw-thatched homes that used hanji to cover floors, walls, ceilings, windows, and doors of homes. The most recent threat to the Korean paper industry is the rise of inexpensive paper made in China, where labor costs and overhead are significantly lower than in Korea.

“Korean Traditional Paper Craft Exhibition,” an exhibition on hanji, always display in various places in Korea.

1 comment:

  1. pl post more of such articles. they r highly educating.