The tale before the invention of papermaking

The revolution of papermaking experienced a long progress starting from 105 CE in ancient China. Cai Lun mixed mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishnets, old rags and hemp waste to invite the first sheet of paper. Around 6 CE, paper was widely used as toilet paper and tea bags. Later in 9 CE, paper-printed money was officially applied all around China.

Before the invention of paper, writing materials in China, different from the western world, included bamboo slips, wooden boards and tortoise shells, while the parchment paper was the luxurious raw material for the Bible and praying books.

The difference of the selections of materials before paper is mostly due to what the region is suitable for planting and what people used to make a living for. For example, in Europe, farming and animal caring were the two main sources of food and shelters, but in Asian, especially before the invention of paper, the source was from the harvests of crops and rice. Not only the region differences, but the influence of religions is crucial. Christianity was built on the bright colors such as gold, silver, blue and red and the architectural style tended to be overly ornate, while, for Buddhism, simplicity was the core of the dogmas. The tortoise’s shells were the representation of nature and longevity as well as the bamboo slips were symbols of peace.

What do you think  are the other factors of the differences of the selection of raw materials before the invention of paper?



One Reply to “The tale before the invention of papermaking”

  1. Debroah, I think that you make a very good point, that writing mechanisms were influenced largely by environment before paper became universally convenient. I think it is interesting that today the majority of the world uses paper even though not all physical environments lend themselves to the production of paper. There are many regions around the world without forests and other areas where deforestation is negatively affecting the environment.

    Globalization has made it possible to have paper all over the world but this luxury, although highly convenient, may not be the most sustainable. This adverse affect of paper utilization, however, can potentially be solved in the near future. I think that we are currently living in a time where paper is becoming obsolete. This can be seen in the growing number of electronic books and digital libraries. Countries such as the United States have access to computers and tablets with internet, making it possible to view ancient books with the click of a button.

    I would argue that even today, our writing tools are greatly influenced by our environment. Even this class blog is an example of the elimination of paper at work!

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