Paper was invented by Cai Lun in 105 AD andwas one of the four great inventions by theChinese. Cai Lun not only improved thepapermaking technique, but also made itpossible to use a variety of materials, such astree bark, hemp, rags, etc. The earliest paperdiscovered in Fufeng County, Shaanxi, wasmade from hemp during the Western Han(206 BC - 24 AD).
While papermaking went on throughout theChinese Empire including Korea, the secreteventually spread to Japan, and later spreadslowly across central Asia and Persia by wayof the caravan routes, reaching Samarkandabout 750 AD.
Bamboo paper was made in the Tang Dynasty (608 -907). Xuan paper made in Jing County, Anhui, isprobably the most known paper, which is mainlyused in Chinese painting and calligraphy. Xuanpaper is soft, smooth, white, absorbent and verydurable.
Early Chinese paper appears to have been made by from asuspension of hemp waste in water, washed, soaked, and beatento a pulp with a wooden mallet. A paper mold, probably a sieve ofcoarsely woven cloth stretched in a four-sided bambooframe, was used to dip up the fiber slurry from the vat and hold itfor drying. Eventually, tree bark, bamboo, and other plant fiberswere used in addition to hemp.
The first real advance in papermaking came with thedevelopment of a smooth material for the moldcovering, which made it possible for the papermakerto free the newly formed sheet and reuse the moldimmediately. This covering was made from thin stripsof rounded bamboo stitched or laced together withsilk, flax, or animal hairs. Other Chineseimprovements in papermaking include the use ofstarch as a sizing material and the use of a yellow dyewhich doubled as an insect repellent for manuscriptpaper.