Monday, November 21, 2016

Hanji Museum in Wonju

Before paper, man recorded words via various materials in order to convey thoughts. Rocks, turtle shells, bronze ware and iron bowls, jukpyeon made from splitting bamboo, parchment from sheepskin, vellum made of bark, silk fabrics. Prior to the invention of paper, the base materials for writing and painting were difficult to use because of great weight, bulk, complex process in their creation, and huge expense to produce. Once paper was invented, however, knowledge began to spread quickly and unified culture rapidly developed. 

The exact period when paper was introduced to Korea is unknown, and different hypothesis range from 2nd - 7th century AD. What is known, however, and according to a very accurate record "The Chronicles of Japan" is in 1610 Koguryeo monks Damjing and Bupjeong went to Japan and taught how to color and manufacture paper, ink and millstones. This fact reveals that paper-making in Koguryeo had not only been introduced before this time but had developed at least enough to share with another country.

Paradoxically, paper which had been originally created and crafted in China and from there diffused to the West was reintroduced to China, but in an altered form, yangji (Western paper). The West had taken the concept of paper-making and used their own materials, mechanized the process and improved on mass production, and then the methods of Western paper production filtered back to China. The first factory for making yangji was established in China during the early 1800s, in Japan in 1872, and in Korea in March 1901.

When paper-making technique was passed to the West, it was during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong during the Tang Dynasty. In 751, General Gao Xianzhi, a migrant of Koguryeo and who commanded the expeditionary force of Tang, was defeated at the Talas Valley in the norther Tien Shan by the Saracenic army and many of his soldiers were captured. Through this war, the technique of paper-making became known to the Islamic culture. Muslims of the Islamic world had an altered production method; they scooped with their hands and filtered fibers with a net at a paper mill in Samarkand, Pakistan. Their culture likewise developed as, with the wide diffusion of a writing material, they were empowered to make their first Koran. From the Islamic world, the paper-making technique of the Islamic world spread out throughout Europe by the Crusades. 

"Pure-Light Dharani Sutra" which was printed on the Korean traditional mulberry paper, hanji, is the first book known to be printed with woodblocks. It was discovered in the Seokgatap at Bulguksa in Gyeongju. It has contents about long life, realizing wishes and the easy passage to eternity if the scripture is memorized for building the tower. Before the book's discovery, the oldest block printing in the world was "Hyakumantoudarni" of Japan, which was published in 770 AD. 

The Route of Paper Diffusion and Cellulose Variations

(click on images to enlarge)
 Cultures varied in their cellulose mediums

 Suroji translates as 'handmade paper. It is similarly called subuji and suchoji. After the diffusion of paper-making technique throughout the world, each country produced various types of paper from its native plants. 

The Origin of the Word, Hanji

There are many assertions about the origin of the word, hanji, and there are many possibilities. No matter its actual etymology, the present meaning is clear and is being borrowed into other languages to distinguish the unique paper type and quality of traditional Korea.
  1. "Han" is a distinguishing term for things Korean and is used as a contrast word for things Western, "yang". Other words following this distinction pattern are hanbok, hanok, haneui ...
  2. "Han" is also created from the Chinese character "Han" of "Daehanminguk".
  3. The best quality of Korean traditional paper is made in the winter when the fibers are put into "han" water, that is, cold water.
  4. "Hanji" is the specific name for Korean traditional paper while the Chinese traditional paper is huazhi and the Japanese is washi.

The History of Korean Paper, Hanji

Hanji is the Korean paper produced from mulberry bark and made in the traditional way. The technique, imported from China, was independently developed according to the period. Baechuji of Silla, manji of Koryeo and taejangji of Joseon -- all hanji, and it has been proven that hanji can last over one thousand years. It is strong, soft and glossy, and therefore is widely used for calligraphy and painting as well as general folkcrafts.

Three Kingdoms Period

The Three Kingdoms Period is the quickening period of hanji. Paper and the technique for paper-making had already been introduced from China, and during this period Korea imitated Chinese paper, finally producing their own form of paper (hanji) before the end of the period.

Unified Silla

The center for paper-making during Unified Silla was Gyeongju. Most paper produced here was used for necessary government documents. The most representative paper was called baekchuji during this time, and it was known as the best paper inside and outside of Silla.

Koryeo Dynasty

Koryeo Dynasty made huge leaps in the development of hanji. Koreans imported the new technique from China and developed the technique further, producing Koryeo-ji aka manji which was praised as the best by Chinese themselves. During this period, the government branch office, Jiso, was installed in order to stimulate and further paper production. 

"Pure-Light Dharani Sutra", excavated from Seokgatap at Bulguksa is now recognized as the first woodblock book in the world. It was discovered when Seokgatap at Bulguksa was dismantled in 1966. The sutra was wrapped in a silk cloth and put in a gold and bronze container used for crystalized sarira (cremated remains) of Sarigong and placed in the core of the second tier of Seokgatap. With exposure to air, its condition worsened and so underwent restoration and conservation from October 1988 to January 1998. This sutra is the relic which presents the development of techniques for making paper and printing from the early period in Korea.

Joseon Dynasty

The early part of the Joseon Dynasty was the final development period of the paper-making technique and the latter part was a time of stagnation. During the early period, organizations were established to produce paper, and techniques and raw materials were various. In this era the usage of paper became popular among the public. However, in the latter part of Joseon after the Japanese Invasion of 1592, the technique for paper-making declined in the continuous turmoil within the nation. Ultimately, the Buddhist temples began producing their own paper for sutra writings and they assumed the responsibility for paper production in the country.

Memoir of the Pilgrimage to the Five Kingdoms of India (Photographic edition) was the traveling journal written in 727 (26th year of King Seongdeok) by Hyecho, a Silla monk. The journal contains contents about religions, customs and cultures of India and the countries bordering western China. This book was discovered at Qian fo dong of Dunhuang, Gansu province in the northwest of China by the French Orientalist Paul Pelliot in 1908. After being published by Luo Yuzhen of China, it became known to the world.

During Japanese Colonial Period

The department for paper production under the Central Research Laboratory of Japanese Government General in Korea analyzed and valued the raw materials and products of Korea during Japanese rule. During this period, China widely distributed sunset hibiscus seeds and unified the necessary bark fibers for paper-making while Japan standardized size and form of mould-frames introducing the Japanese way. Paper-making by double-mould frame and iron board drying were imported in order to establish the Japanese method of making hand-crafted fibrous paper.

Fifty Years after Liberation

a modern hanbok made out of thick
hanji for the intent of promoting
hanji in the fashion industry
The base of hanji production was fundamentally weakened by the policy of placing priority on industrial development over agricultural security and maintenance. Political, economic and social turmoil ensued after the Korean War and the suppression of the citizens by military government and growing civil unrest. However, samjidak, the mulberry material for export was encouraged as well as the production of handmade paper. Not to mention the fact that, in 1901, the first factory for yangji had been established. This alter paper production required different kinds of machines and even chemicals for paper-making, but the paper-making process was speedier and ultimately cheaper, and it fed the growing public demand for more paper. With the increase in yangji production, Hanji decreased, and quite quickly fell out of common use. 

Because hanji-making is time-consuming and involves intensive labor, only a few artists are presently willing to produce it, and therefore training as a hanji master craftsman is rare. Little demand for hanji does not encourage hanji craftsman either, as a living must be made. In addition, many people are satisfied with the modern "hanji" which uses some of the materials for making the traditional hanji but also uses machines and chemicals. The paper quality is very compromised, but since it is produced much more cheaply, it can likewise be sold more cheaply and therefore this new form of "hanji" outsells the traditional form. 

In recent years (since 2000), the government wanting to promote and stimulate cultural traditions is now encouraging events and the development of new products that utilize hanji, one of Korea's traditional prides.  Hanji cloth to make hanji fashion clothing is one of the latest trends for stimulating hanji production and popularity.

Paper-making Process of Traditional Hanji

Cut, steam, boil, dry, strip paper mulberry bark, boil, beat, mix, scoop ... 

Never Wasteful: The Ancient Way of Recycling Old Hanji

Over the centuries Korea developed various uses of hanji, many of which pertain to craftworks in their daily lives. And when some hanji products became old, they were recycled into new and still useful craftworks, like twisting old hanji products, paper and ratty books into strands for alternative household usage. For example, saekji craftwork was done by accumulating small pieces of paper and making them into colored paper for some decorative purpose. 

No comments:

Post a Comment