Skip Nav

Who invented paper? Ancient China and the history of paper

Navigation menu

❶There was a tradition that Muslims would release their prisoners if they could teach ten Muslims any valuable knowledge. The word "paper" is etymologically derived from papyrus , Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant.

Accessibility links

Paper Making
BBC News Navigation
The Invention of Paper

It is lucky chance that the date of CE was recorded, because Cai Lun, the official involved, who seems to have introduced some improvements in paper manufacture, worked at the palace as a eunuch. Yet just because the new technology was not trumpeted at the time does not mean that it had no effect. But thereafter the advantage swung the other way, since papyrus, which is composed of organic material not as highly processed as paper, was prone to splitting and deterioration at a much greater rate; this may be why vellum eventually came to dominate, especially in the harsher climate of Northern Europe.

Paper, by contrast, gave a good, uniform writing surface that could be smoothly rolled and unrolled without damage, while remaining relatively durable. In the pre-Columbian Americas , a type of early bark paper known as amate was used as a folded writing material for codices.

The earliest sample of amate was found at Huitzilapa near the Magdalena Municipality, Jalisco , Mexico, belonging to the shaft tomb culture. Archaeological evidence of papermaking predates the traditional attribution given to Cai Lun , [5] an imperial eunuch official of the Han dynasty BC — AD , thus the exact date or inventor of paper can not be deduced. The earliest extant paper fragment was unearthed at Fangmatan in Gansu province, and was likely part of a map, dated to — BC.

The innovation is a type of paper made of mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishing nets , old rags, and hemp waste which reduced the cost of paper production, which prior to this, and later, in the West, depended solely on rags. During the Shang — BC and Zhou — BC dynasties of ancient China , documents were ordinarily written on bone or bamboo on tablets or on bamboo strips sewn and rolled together into scrolls , making them very heavy, awkward, and hard to transport.

The light material of silk was sometimes used as a recording medium, but was normally too expensive to consider. The Han dynasty Chinese court official Cai Lun c. The record in the Twenty-Four Histories says [10]. The production process may have originated from the practice of pounding and stirring rags in water, after which the matted fibres were collected on a mat. In the Eastern Jin period a fine bamboo screen-mould treated with insecticidal dye for permanence was used in papermaking.

After printing was popularized during the Song dynasty the demand for paper grew substantially. In the year , 1. Open, it stretches; closed, it rolls up. Among the earliest known uses of paper was padding and wrapping delicate bronze mirrors according to archaeological evidence dating to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han from the 2nd century BC.

Toilet paper was used in China from around the late 6th century. During the Tang dynasty — paper was folded and sewn into square bags to preserve the flavor of tea. In the same period, it was written that tea was served from baskets with multi-colored paper cups and paper napkins of different size and shape. Paper money was bestowed as gifts to government officials in special paper envelopes.

According to Timothy Hugh Barrett, paper played a pivotal role in early Chinese written culture, and a "strong reading culture seems to have developed quickly after its introduction, despite political fragmentation. It meant books would no longer have to be circulated in small sections or bundles, but in their entirety. Books could now be carried by hand rather than transported by cart.

As a result individual collections of literary works increased in the following centuries. Textual culture seems to have been more developed in the south by the early 5th century, with individuals owning collections of several thousand scrolls. In the north an entire palace collection might have been only a few thousand scrolls in total.

The personal nature of texts was remarked upon by a late 6th century imperial librarian. According to him, the possession of and familiarity with a few hundred scrolls was what it took to be socially accepted as an educated man. According to Endymion Wilkinson, one consequence of the rise of paper in China was that "it rapidly began to surpass the Mediterranean empires in book production. In addition the gradual spread of woodblock printing from the late Tang and Song further boosted their lead ahead of the rest of the world.

From the fourth century CE to about , the biggest library collections in China were three to four times larger than the largest collections in Europe.

The imperial government book collections in the Tang numbered about 5, to 6, titles 89, juan in The Song imperial collections at their height in the early twelfth century may have risen to 4, to 5, titles. These are indeed impressive numbers, but the imperial libraries were exceptional in China and their use was highly restricted. Only very few libraries in the Tang and Song held more than one or two thousand titles a size not even matched by the manuscript collections of the grandest of the great cathedral libraries in Europe.

However despite the initial advantage afforded to China by the paper medium, by the 9th century its spread and development in the middle east had closed the gap between the two regions. Between the 9th to early 12th centuries, libraries in Cairo, Baghdad, and Cordoba held collections larger than even the ones in China, and dwarfed those in Europe.

From about the maturation of paper making and printing in Southern Europe also had an effect in closing the gap with the Chinese. The Venetian Domenico Grimani 's collection numbered 15, volumes by the time of his death in After , European collections completely overtook those in China. The Bibliotheca Augusta numbered 60, volumes in and surged to , in In the s the Bibliotheque du Roi numbered 80, books and the Cambridge University 40, in After , libraries in North America also began to overtake those of China, and toward the end of the century, Thomas Jefferson 's private collection numbered 4, titles in 6, volumes.

The European advantage only increased further into the 19th century as national collections in Europe and America exceeded a million volumes while a few private collections, such as that of Lord Action, reached 70, European book production began to catch up with China after the introduction of the mechanical printing press in the mid fifteenth century. Reliable figures of the number of imprints of each edition are as hard to find in Europe as they are in China, but one result of the spread of printing in Europe was that public and private libraries were able to build up their collections and for the first time in over a thousand years they began to match and then overtake the largest libraries in China.

Paper became central to the three arts of China — poetry, painting, and calligraphy. In later times paper constituted one of the 'Four Treasures of the Scholar's Studio,' alongside the brush, the ink, and the inkstone. After its origin in central China , the production and use of paper spread steadily.

It is clear that paper was used at Dunhuang by AD , in Loulan in the modern-day province of Xinjiang by , and in Turpan by Paper was concurrently introduced in Japan sometime between the years and Paper spread to Vietnam in the 3rd century.

Paper spread to Korea in the 4th century. Paper spread to Japan in the 5th century. Ancient China and the history of paper. An early playing card Ming Dynasty, ca.

By Karen Carr T Science in Islamic Africa — medieval African science. Ships and sailing in ancient Africa — early boats. Where did alphabet letters come from? Heinz Hayle January 11, at 6: Karen Carr January 11, at Good luck with your project! Cordelia December 19, at I used this for research for my class! This was very helpful! Karen Carr December 19, at 3: Thanks for taking the time to let us know. These raw materials could be easily found at a much lower cost so large quantities of paper could be produced.

A Korean Monk then took this skill with him to Japan in A. During a war between the Tang Dynasty and the Arab Empire, the Arabs captured some Tang soldiers and paper making workers. Thus, a paper factory was set up by the Arabs. In the 11th Century the skill was carried to India when Chinese monks journeyed there in search of Buddhist sutras.

Through the Arabs, Africans and Europeans then mastered the skill. The first paper factory in Europe was set up in Spain. In the latter half of the 16th century, this skill was brought to America. By the 19th century, when paper factories were set up in Australia, paper making had spread to the whole world. Cai Lun, also known as Tsai Lun, was listed in the book The In the 12th and 13th centuries, gunpowder spread to the Arab countries, then Greece, other European countries, and finally all over the world.

Inspired by engraved name seals, Chinese people invented fixed-type engraved printing around A.

How Ts’ai Lun made paper

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Perfect for kids, parents, and educators, Paper Inventions is a project-based book with full color illustrations, step-by-step instructions, supply lists, and templates that allow you to follow along with the book or devise something entirely new/5(30).

Privacy FAQs

History of China, "Invention of Paper in China," " The Invention of Paper," Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, Georgia Tech, accessed Dec. 16, "Understanding Manuscripts," International Dunhuang Project, accessed Dec. 16,

About Our Ads

{"id","title":"Make: Paper Inventions","handle":"make-paper-inventions","description":"\ucmeta charset=\"utf-8\"\ue\n\ucp\ue\ucspan style=\"font-weight: ;\"\uePaper is incredible stuff. It’s easy to cut, but incredibly strong. It’s disposable, but can last for centuries. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Eighth Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers (Chicago .

Cookie Info

But paper has come a long way from its creation to the form we know today. People may not know it but the invention of paper has revolutionized a lot of things like the very civilization and culture and education of people. The invention of paper greatly contributed to the spread and development of civilization. Before its invention, bones, tortoise shells, and bamboo slips were all used as writing surfaces, but as Chinese civilization developed they proved themselves unsuitable because of their bulk and weight.