Ex­pert makes new find­ings on his­tory of pa­per­mak­ing

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Nan­jing

A Chi­nese ar­chae­ol­o­gist has an­nounced newfind­ings about an an­cient scrap of pa­per, likely the ear­li­est on record, dat­ing back to 250 years be­fore Cai Lun rev­o­lu­tion­ized pa­per­mak­ing tech­nol­ogy in China.

The piece, about five cen­time­ters long and two cen­time­ters wide, was un­earthed three decades ago in Fang­matan, an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site in Gansu province, but it didn’t gar­ner at­ten­tion un­til 2012 when Li Xiao­cen, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist at Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity of In­for­ma­tion Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, found the piece had un­even fiber dis­tri­bu­tion when put un­der the mi­cro­scope.

“The sur­face of the frag­ment is yel­low and quite rough, and the fibers are ran­domly yet densely in­ter­laced,” Li said.

“Th­ese are the traits of an an­cient pa­per­mak­ing tech­nol­ogy, very dif­fer­ent from CaiLun’s, that eth­nic mi­nori­ties in Ti­bet, Yun­nan and Xin­jiang still use to make Kong­ming lanterns and tran­scribe scrip­tures.”

Li re­vealed his find­ings at a re­cent sem­i­nar, at­tended by more than 160 ar­chae­ol­o­gists from China, Ger­many, Greece and Peru.

A crude type of pa­per was used as early as the West­ern HanDy­nasty(206BC-AD24). How­ever, Cai Lun, a eunuch in the Eastern Han Dy­nasty (AD25-220), greatly re­formed

The sur­face of the frag­ment is yel­low and quite rough, and the fibers are ran­domly yet densely in­ter­laced.”

ar­chae­ol­o­gist at Nan­jing Uni­ver­sity of In­for­ma­tion Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy

Li Xiao­cen, the art of pa­per­mak­ing and is re­garded as the in­ven­tor of an­cient pa­per and the pa­per­mak­ing process.

Li said the frag­ment pre­dates Cai Lun’s in­ven­tion by about 250 years, though con­tro­versy re­mains over­whether the frag­ment should be iden­ti­fied as real pa­per.

“Fur­ther re­search should be con­ducted on, for ex­am­ple, the de­gree the pulp was beaten and the en­tire production process as well as the pa­per’s white­ness,” ac­cord­ing to Chen Gang, a pro­fes­sor with the department of cul­tural her­itage and muse­ol­ogy at Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity. “But Li’s re­search is help­ful for us to un­der­stand the full pic­ture of an­cient pa­per­mak­ing tech­nol­ogy in China.”

The an­cient scrap of pa­per was un­earthed 30 years ago in Gansu province.

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