Teacher turns panda drop­pings into pa­per

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - ByHUOYANand MALIE in Xi’an Con­tact the writ­ers at malie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A re­tired teacher in north­west­ern China has found a novel raw ma­te­rial for mak­ing pa­per — poop from the gi­ant panda.

Li­uXiaodong, 68, has had a pa­per-mak­ing work­shop in Qil­iang vil­lage of Shaanxi prov­ince since step­ping­down as the lo­cal pri­mary school prin­ci­pal in 2008.

Two years ago, he be­gan ex­per­i­ment­ing with panda ex­cre­ment, mix­ing it with vary­ing quan­ti­ties of mul­berry tree bark, wild ki­wifruit vines and spring wa­ter to make pa­per. On Nov 17, he fi­nally cracked it.

He got the idea while wan­der­ing on Qin­ling Moun­tain, just south of his vil­lage, which is a ma­jor habi­tat for the en­dan­gered gi­ant panda.

“Ev­ery day, a panda eats about 35 kilo­grams of bam­boo, but it ab­sorbs only 30 per­cent of the nu­tri­ents from the bam­boo,” said the crafts­man, who­runs CaiLunPaper­mak­ing Cul­tural Gar­den, sug­gest­ing that 70 per­cent was end­ing up in their waste.

“I saw a lot of panda poop there, and I won­dered if I could make pa­per with it.”

He got in touch with a panda breed­ing and pro­tec­tion base on the moun­tain to dis­cuss his idea and, to his sur­prise, the ex­perts there were keen to help.

Zhou Juan­hua, who runs the fa­cil­ity, said the an­i­mals’ waste was pre­vi­ously buried or burned, so he saw Liu’s pa­per-mak­ing pro­posal as an en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly al­ter­na­tive. “We of­fered to pro­vide fresh drop­pings,” he said.

Liu Li­jie, 66, who helps in Liu Xiaodong’s work­shop, said he did not un­der­stand the idea of turn­ing panda poop into pa­per at first, “but his ded­i­ca­tion touched me, so I stuck with him to study fur­ther”.

“By us­ing the an­i­mal waste, we don’t cut down bam­boo or other trees, or use any chem­i­cal ad­di­tives in the pa­per­mak­ing process, which pro­tects our en­vi­ron­ment,” he added.

Qil­iang vil­lage, about 60 kilo­me­ters south­west of Xi’an, Shaanxi prov­ince, is be­lieved to be the birth­place of pa­per-mak­ing, with the in­ven­tion cred­ited to Cai Lun (61-121), a eu­nuch, dur­ing the East­ern Han Dy­nasty (25-220).

Since an­cient times, fam­i­lies in Qil­iang have run pa­per-mak­ing shops or been trained in the skill. it

Liu Xiaodong, who was born in the vil­lage, said he opened his work­shop be­cause he wanted to pass on the tra­di­tions to fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

His tools are all cen­tury-old items, in­clud­ing trol­leys, wa­ter tanks, hand hay cut­ters and the dou­ble-edged fine­toothed comb for pa­per fish­ing, giv­ing a sense of pass­ing through time and space.

“The modern pa­per-mak­ing tech­nol­ogy uses industrial caus­tic soda, but we still use the process of sous­ing so that the wa­ter we use for pa­per-mak­ing is safe for keep­ing fish in af­ter­ward,” Liu Xiaodong said.

Pa­per-mak­ing is re­garded as one of the four great in­ven­tions of an­cient China, along with the com­pass, gun­pow­der and the print­ing press.

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