About Hanji

Paper was believed for a long time to have been invented in the 2nd century B.C., by a Chinese man named Chae Ryun, from the Han Dynasty. However, in 1995, traces of paper dating back to B.C. 179 ~ B.C. 87 were unearthed in Sichuan, China. This event refuted the claim that Chae Ryun was the inventor of paper, and proved that paper had already been introduced far before his time.

When the art of papermaking was introduced to Korea, we took this technique, developed it into our own, and created a tough and solid paper known as Hanji, or Korean paper. As the Korean adage "Paper lasts for a thousand years and silk lasts for five hundred years" tells us, Hanjiis a valuable cultural asset that reflects the implicit tenacity of the Korean people. 

The soil and the climate affect the characteristics of the tree, such as its width and length, which in return determine the quality of the paper. Our ancestors well understood the characteristics of the mulberry tree; they gathered the tree in the fall, boiled it in traditional lye to create mulberry starch, and used it as a dispersing agent as well as an adhesive. Hanji made from mulberry bark is extremely tough and durable, and known to be the longest lasting acid-free paper in the world.

Compared to Japanese or Chinese paper, which is made from a mixture of mulberry bark and other materials, Hanji is solid, and shows the texture of the mulberry fiber. The durability of the paper is also largely affected by the manufacturing method. A long reed screen is used both in front and back, but there is no frame in the upper area; this allows the mulberry materials to freely flow in all directions, creating a paper that is evenly durable. In the case of Japanese and Chinese paper, a long reed screen is used on the left and right and the material is gathered between the upper and lower frames before it is swayed back and forth. This creates a paper that tears easily. 

As such, Hanji is a crystallization of the wisdom of our ancestors, who took a foreign skill and developed it into a more exceptional and unique cultural asset.



How Hanji is made?

1. Streaming mulberry bark
Remove the black and green barks, and collect only the white-colored bark from the mulberry tree. Put it in clean water for a day. Then place it in alkaline solutions and apply heat for 4-5 hours. Ashes of beans, buckwheat or straw that was soaked in warm water and then drained, is mostly used as alkaline solution. The alkaline solution makes the hanji a weak alkalinity that prevents the oxidation of the paper.

2. Washing and bleaching in sunshine
Leave the well-steamed mulberry bark in pot for 7-8 hours. Then take it out and soak it in clean flowing water for 3-4 days. While having it soaked in water and exposed to sunshine, the white-colored bark will become whiter, if the pieces are well mixed and turned over.

3. Screening out particles
All particles remaining on the bark should be removed. It is not advisable to use bleaching chemicals for this purpose, as they may cause damage to the fiber. Doing the work manually will result in producing durable and high-quality hanji.

4. Beating
Place the bark on a flat-surfaced rock and beat it for 2-3 hours with a wood club to soften the fabric. The process of soaking and turning the bark around in water, and screening out particles should be repeated once more to produce a product of better quality.

5. Taking out of water and removing moisture
Put mulberry fibers and hibiscus manihot in water and stir with a stick to prevent the fibers from becoming entangled with each other. Then take out the fibers floating on the water. This process is called “tteugi” or “sucho.” There are two ways of doing this: heullim tteugi and gadum tteugi. The former refers to a method of removing moisture by putting the fiber horizontally on a wide rectangle-shaped sieve, and the latter vertically. Because sheets of paper made by the former method are arranged diagonally, there is not much difference in horizontal strength making it stronger than paper made us the latter method. Place the hanji on top of a wooden board and place a heavy stone or a lever on top of the board and leave overnight so as to drain the water from the hanji.

6. Drying
In the past, the hanji that had gone through the foregoing process were placed on the ondol floor for drying, sweeping them with a broom, or were placed on the wall or a wooden plate and dried in the sun. At present, most hanji are placed on a heated steel sheet to dry.