2. WASHI Encyclopedia

Frequently Asked Questions:



Question 29.
When and where was paper invented?

It was long believed that Ts’ai Lun of China invented paper. It originated from the “ Gokansho” (history of the Latter Han Dynasty) which describes that Ts’ai Lun who was head of the government department making utensils used by the court, made paper in 105 using wood bark, jute fiber, rags and macerated fish nets probably made from jute cord. The people called this Ts’ai Koshi (distinguished Ts’ai Lun’s paper).
However, recently, from remains of the Former Han Dynasty (207BC-9AD) in China, actual paper was unearthed and the origin of paper is being restudied. These papers are jute papers and jute fiber and crushed pieces of jute cloth are mixed in it.
Mankind has devised many ways to find material to inscribe letters. Pressing letters on clay then baking them into bricks, casting it in metal, inscribing letters on stone or bones, using animal hides such as sheepskin, using vegetation such as tapa of tree barks or papyrus varies with the purpose of leaving such writings or according to the natural environment.
In ancient China, besides paper, such material as wood or bamboo tablets, silk cloth or hemp cloth, etc., all which have strong and weak points were used for writing and copy material. From the excavations of the Ma-Wang-Tui Han tomb of the Former Han Dynasty (207BC-9AD), a silk cloth with original Lao-Tzu (Chinese philosopher, born 604BC, founder of Taoism) teachings written on it has been found and at that time, precious documents and drawings were written on elaborate cloth and it seems that paper was regarded as low grade writing or copy material. Technology devel-oped and the many strong points of paper, it’s handiness, weight, surface beauty, writability, strength, long storage life, as well as the availablity of abundant raw materials with which to make paper, raised its status for use as a writing material for important high grade documents of the court. Ts’ai Lun was probably the reforming innovator of paper technique.
As mentioned before, Former Han Dynasty paper was excavated from such important places of the Silk Road as Kansu and Sin- kiang and this indicates that paper was, from an early age, found to be serviceable in Central Asian countries.
During the Tang dynasty (618- 906), the Islam world expanded
rapidly and ruled the area from the Iberian peninsula to Iran and flourished both economically and culturally. In 751, the Tang dynasty warred with Islam and lost on the banks of the Tarus river and at that time, paper arti-sans were captured as prisoners of war and papermaking spread to the Islam world. Later, from the 8th to 11th century, paper named after production centers such as Samarkand, Bagdad, Damascus was exported to Europe and other countries of the world. During the 8th century when Spain was ruled by Islam, a paper mill was erected, and in the 12th century, papermaking spread to France. Papermaking spread to Italy via Damascus and in the 14th century, production was flourishing, contributing to the Renaissance culture. Later, papermaking gradually spread to other European countries.
Answer: Shin Yagihashi

Question 30.
When was Washi originally made?

Paper invented in China spread immediately to Asian countries.
For instance, at the end of the 2nd century, a prototype of paper was introduced to Viet Nam and in the Wei, Chin and South and North Dynasty period (386-617) papermaking started. In 641,a noblewoman from the Tang (618- 690) court married a noble in Tibet and brought paper, India ink and brush artisans along with her. During the Han Dynasty, China had trade with India and before the end of the 7th century, papermaking began there and spread to Nepal, Pakistan and Malacca. Papermaking spread to Korea from early times and it is said it started in the 4th century.
In Japan, paper was known through Buddhism (officially introduced in 548) to be convenient and the oldest article mentioning papermaking was written in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, 30 volumes, completed 720) concerning the 18th year of the reign of Empress Suiko (610) where it says “The King of Korea and priest Donclio presented Bud¬dhist sutras. Doncho is well versed in Buddhist scriptures and skill-fully makes pigments, paper and .India ink. He also introduced a water powered mortar. This must be the first time in history that such a water powered mortar was made.”
However, considering the fact that many craftsmen came from Korea and the circumstances that Japan required paper, and on the other hand, that there is no poem on paper in the “Manyou-shu” (The oldest collection of poems, 20 volumes, around 4500 poems, present form completed around 750) which describes the life of common people, it can be assumed that in a period not far from the reign of Empress Suiko (592-628), immigrant craftsmen from the Korean peninsula started paper- making.
35 years after Priest Doncho arrived in Japan, Law Reformation of the Taika age (646) took place and it stipulated that family registration be started. 60 years later, the Kogo Nenjaku (670) which was a family register of a national scale was enforced and 80 years later, the Koin Nenjaku (690) which was a family register revised every 6 years was completed and with this as a basis, the law of farmland distribution was promulgated.
Reviewing the expansion of demand for official document papers under these circumstances, Doncho,s achievement was in introducing the newest method of high productivity papermaking. In this meaning, the mortar utilizing water power is related not only to papermaking but also to making of pigments and India ink and especially in papermaking, crushing of hemp rags and helping in producing uniform quality raw material in volume.
In identification of age, the old¬est remaining actual examples of Washi are the Mino (Gifu) Chikuzen (Fukuoka) and Buzen (between Fukuoka and Oita) family register paper of the 2nd year of Taiho (702) stored in Shoso-In in Nara. They are Kozo paper made in each area and not only demonstrate the technical standard of each area but it is also interesting in that the present characteristics of Kozo of each area can be seen such as the Kyushu Kozo having red streaks mixed and Mino Kozo having a gentle paper surface.
Recently excavated lacquered paper writings (waste paper used for the paper lid of lacquered buckets) were also found to be such official documents as family registers or government loan certificates so this demonstrates the huge paper demand of those times.
Answer: Shin Yagihashi

Question 31.
Tell us more about the history of Washi.

The long history of Washi over a thousand and several hundred years can be roughly divided into two periods. The first period continues up to the end of the Heian period (end of the 12th century) from around the end of the 5th century when the papermaking technique was introduced to Japan. The latter period is from the Kamakura period (1192-1333) up to the present.
The first half is a period when Japan was controlled by a bureaucratic structure called Ritsuryo (laws amd regulations) system modeled on the Chinese example. As it was a well-organized structure, a massive amount of paper was necessary for government use connecting the central and local offices and for family register paper which was the basis for taxation or conscription of sol-diers (an original and 2 copies were kept by the central and local government offices). At the capi¬tal, a government sponsored new papermaking mill called Shioku-In (cf. Note) was established which made paper for court requirements such as calligraphy paper which was elaborately and beautifully decorated. Shioku-In also had an important role in teaching papermaking in the local areas but production at the mill itself was small. Paper for correspondence sent to the central government from the local offices was, in principle, the responsibilty of local authorities so papermaking tech-niques spread quickly throughout the country.
Among items still remaining and kept in Shoso-In are family registers sent to the central government from all areas of Japan. The date of some registers can be definitely confirmed and among them, there are papers from Mino (Gifu), Chikuzen (Fukuoka) and Buzen (between Fukuoka and Oita). These registers are dated 702 and are regarded as the oldest examples of Washi remaining. The technical standard of these papers vary but it is interesting to notice the local standard of each district and how the paper compares with current Washi products from the area.
Investigation of papers stored in Shoso-In shows that the represen-tative Washi of the ancient times were hemp, Gampi and Kozo papers and especially hemp was highly esteemed as it had a long history in China. For the highest class correspondence, hemp papers were used. Also, there were many cases where Gampi and Kozo fibers were mixed together with hemp.
Holding examples of Washi made from the Nara period (710- 794) to the Heian period (794-1192) to light, the fiber direction is scattered and unsettled (characteristic of Tamezuki) in most examples of this time, but the direction of fibers began to become uniform vertically so Nagashizuki sheet formation which is the characteristic of Washi, is thought to have been developed during the Heian period. The use of Neri is necessary for Nagashizuki and initially, it is said that Gampi mixed with Kozo was the origin of the idea to use Neri.
During the Heian period (794- 1192), Washi making technique developed further. When using hemp, the long fiber must be cut so it was necessary to cut it each time to several millimeters or beat it in a mortar. The surface of the finished hemp paper was rough so such treatment as pounding or polishing was necessary. On the other hand, Kozo fiber was about 1 centimeter and was most appropriate for papermaking as the fibers interlocked easily to form a strong paper. Gampi fibers were also about 3 millimeter and semi-transparent so when made into papers, the texture was so very fine that the color beneath could be seen. Therefore, vegetable- dyed thin papers could be placed upon each other and a neutral tint could be obtained. Japanese poems composed of 31 syllables were written on this paper.
Due to difficulties of raw material preparation and the rough texture, manufacture of hemp paper deteriorated and Kozo and Gampi papers became the key papers of Washi. Cultivation of Kozo was easy and as it could be grown in all places throughout Japan, Kozo paper accounted for
more than half of the total Washi production. On the other hand, Gampi could not be cultivated and only natural stands could be collected so production was limited but Gampi paper was favored as a special high-grade paper.
The compilation of these new techniques of Washi is the Japanese phonetic character cal-ligraphy paper used in the “Nishi Honganjibon Sanjurokunin Kasku” (volume of the selected poems of 36 outstanding poets) collected in the middle of the Heian period (794-1192) and now in possession of the Nisht Honganji (Head temple of the Nishi Hon¬ganji sect). This can be said to illustrate the apex of nobility culture in Japan.
With the fall of the bureaucratic structure built upon the Ritsuryo system and nobility and after the Kamakura period (1192-1333) when the Bushi (samurai) class appeared, Washi began to be produced in a new environment. Washi was not required to be supplied as a form of tax from the local villages but was sent to the capital as merchandise. In the local areas and in the capital,a market for paper and raw material, Kozo, was established and traders trans-ported these items and gained a profit. The paper which won popularity at these markets became known throughout Japan. For instance, SugiPiarashi (The name of the paper and place of production are the same) originated from a local area in Hyogo Pref. and became a paper representative of the middle ages. A set of Sugihara- shi and a fan was called “Issoku Ippon” (10 quire of paper and a fan) and was extensively used as a gift from priests and samurai on a formal visit or on congratulatory occasions.
Many of the feudal clans during the Yedo period (1603-1867) monopolized Washi production within their territory and sent it to the central markets of Osaka or Yedo (Tokyo). With this profit, they took measures to manage the financial affairs of the clan (paper monopoly system). It was due to the great increase in demand for paper during the Yedo period. By the Nagashizuki method of produc-tion, Washi came to possess such characteristics as thinness, strength and beauty. Therefore, besides being a vehicle for writing, a broader use for Washi that included all parts of daily life such as food, clothing and shelter was developed.
At that time, papermaking developed into a representative industry in Japan. Paper representing the Yedo period were Echizen Hosho (Fukui), Naoshi of Mino (Gifu), Nishinouchishi (Ibar- agi) and Hodomurashi (Tochigi) which are all famous and are still being made at present.
Due to the Meiji Restoration (1867), Washi faced a great turning point as it lost the support of their clans. However, work increased for the papermakers. The reason is that Japan suddenly rushed into a capitalistic society without ample preparation of the conditions, so it was necessary for the papermakers to sustain paper demand which increased tremen-dously. According to government
statistics, the number of papermakers increased each year and in 1901, it reached a high of 68,562 but later decreased gradually. A western-style paper mill estab-lished in 1872, gradually started normal manufacture of machine- made paper from that time.

From then on, Washi was used by the general public for such everyday life items as:
1. Shojigami, umbrella paper, lantern paper,etc..
2. Industrial use papers, such as typewriter base paper {Tengujo) or mimeograph base paper (thin Gampi paper) and
3. Traditional industrial use papers, such as Hakuuchishi (gold foil beating paper, Gampi paper) and mounting paper.
At present, papers of the third category remain. In addition, such papers as Washi picture pasting, Washi flower making, sutra copy papers etc. which have strong sup-port from a wide group of enthusi-asts must be included and also paper for preservation and repair of cultural assets and paper for painting are gaining closer attention.
During the Daido period (806-810) this Washi producing mill was established alongside the Shioku river in Kyoto as an annex to the Bureau of Scriptoria! Mat- ters.This mill csuried on the tradition of papermaking originating from 701 when the Taiho laws and regulations were promulgated stipulating papermaking by the Bureau of Scriptorial Matters and paying of taxes by paper.
Answer: Shin Yagihashi


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