|Hanji, A Long and Beautiful Tradition |
Hanji is traditional Korean paper that is hand-made by processing the bark of the mulberry plant. Before modern times hanji was the only paper used in Korea. Hanji is also known as the living paper because of its close relation to nature.
Jang, Yong Hun(68), he is an intangible cultural asset who has been making hanji since he was 19. When listening to him talk it is easy to understand the history of hanji.
The first paper ever to be made was in B.C. 2 , China. It is not accurate when the paper making method was transmitted to Korea, though it is believed to be before B.C. 4. The specialness of hanji is that it is only made of natural materials. Unlike western paper, which uses Sodium hydroxide, hanji is made from water strained through burned buckwheat straw, rice straw etc. and is neutral paper.
Therefore even a thousand year later the paper does not change. Jang Yong Hun says that because hanji is made of natural materials and ventilates it can't help but last a long time. Hanji is thin but strong. This is because the fibers that form hanji are long and clear.
Hanji has many uses. It is mostly used for passing down records. The next place that hanji is used most is in our living areas. By putting it on the doors, walls and floors of Korean traditional houses it was used as interior decoration paper. Also hanji was the only material that could control the light adequately.
Hanji was also used in religious ceremonies. Korea, whose culture has been strongly influenced Confucianism, emphasized formal ceremonies. Hanji was used to record these ceremonies. White was used for its meaning of cleanness and purity.
Hanji was also used for money and art to name only a few.
Hanji has been essential in Korean's living, but since the popularization of western paper its use has been decreasing. Request for machine paper, which can be made in less time, has been increasing.
Hanji factories with its decrease in requests are hard to be found since the 1970s. Jang Yong Hun has been frustrated a few times by economical problems from the decrease in request and natural causes, but he hasn't given up making hanji. He first started making hanji because it was his father's job but now he feels that he needs to protect it. His aim is to make the best hanji. Now even his son Jang, Yong Ung (35) wishes to keep on the family business.
Jang, Yong Hun works in a hanji workroom named 'Jangjibang' in Gapyeong, Gyeonggido. Here he makes various kinds of hanji and exports it overseas.
How to Make Hanji
1. Get a year old paper mulberry between November and February.
2. Steam the paper mulberry overnight.
3. Peel the bark of paper mulberry.
4. Dry the peeled bark.
5. Soak the bark in the stream then peel the outer skin of the bark.
6. Dry the bark again.
7. Soak the Bark in clear and cold water.
8. Put the bark in the pot with the lye from burning straw, buckwheat straw.
9. Wash off the lye.
10. Pound the bark with a stick then put in water.
11. Make a paper shape and dry.
12. Put the dried paper together and hit to make them glossy.