Today we took a trip to a local Dai minority village to pick up some handmade paper for wrapping our tea. Being pretty far out of the way, we took a combination of taxi, local bus, and motorbike to arrive at the little village at the base of the Bulang mountain range, not far from Banzhang. This village is famous for their handmade paper with around half the households in the village engaged in this lovely craft. Unfortunately for us, today no-one was making paper – most people were out in the fields planting rice seedlings, but a friend made a call and a lovely Dai lady appeared to show us around.
They make the paper from the bark of the Paper Mulberry tree, producing different tones and textures of paper from different ages of tree – the bark of the young trees make a more fine, uniform paper, while the older trees make a courser, darker paper which in a way is more visually interesting.
The bark is stripped from the trees and left to dry.
These pieces are then boiled for around 12 hours, alternately layered with wood ash.
The wood ash allows the bark to separate into small fibres. These are threshed to properly separate the fibres. A few families use a machine such as the one below, however most still use the traditional hand methods to separate the fibres.
The threshed fibres are then washed thoroughly in 2 separate basins to remove the wood ash and any foreign particles and the fibres in the second basin are sieved onto trays, which are then placed in the sun to dry. (there’s no fibres in this photo – she was just demonstrating)
And the result…