Handmade Paper from China
From IT’s vantage point—peering from behind our towering files of research notes and page proofs stuffed with mass-produced (recycled) paper—the notion of handmade paper has a distinct charm. So the fact that Chinese villagers in Guizhou Province’s remote Shiqiao remain patient masters of just such a tradition is especially intriguing.
The handmade papermaking tradition dates back to the Han Dynasty in 100 B.C. It’s such a part of Chinese heritage that papermaking is even considered one of the four great ancient inventions of China, according to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), who recently funded a project to build a visitor and display center in Shiqiao in an effort to help preserve the indigenous craft.
As if we needed to remind you, the ancient process of making handmade paper has hugely been replaced by modern mass production processes. These days, only 40 families in Shiqiao Village are still able to support themselves by producing and selling their handmade masterpieces.
“We recognize that to make the project self-sustaining and as an incentive for villagers to continue doing it, they must be able to make their earnings from it,” a spokesperson for the PATA Foundation explained to IT. “The display center therefore aims to showcase their products to visitors, in a proper way and in one stop, instead of having to go to visit each family to see the products.”
So together with the Guizhou Tourism Administration, PATA is aiming to help alleviate poverty and improve the local people’s quality of life by promoting the craft. In addition to the new visitor center, the funds from PATA are being used to upgrade the hand-making paper facilities in a way that maintains the traditional process, such as improving the water supply system so the villagers no longer have to use precious time and manpower walking miles carrying water.
The project is set to finish in late January, and a grand opening is scheduled for sometime in early 2008. IT wishes nothing but the best!
Photos: Pacific Asia Travel Association Foundation
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