Before the papermaking technology introduced to ancient Tibet, Tibetans used bark, stone piece, bone, wood piece, sheepskin and other materials for writing. After Wencheng Princess brought in the papermaking technology, Tibetans still facing the problem of material for it was hard to find bamboo, paddy or fishnet that was used to make paper in middle China. However, after years of discovery, the craftsmen finally created the special Tibetan paper.
Tibetan paper is made from bark fiber and the root fiber of wolfsbane (scientific name: Stellera chamaejasme Linn.). Wolfsbane has colorful flower but contains poison, so it offers perfect features for Tibetan paper, such as moth-resistance, anti-corrasion, anti-discoloration, tough texture and wear-resistance. For the superior character, Tibetan paper was used in the writing and printing of Buddhist scriptures, classic literatures and government documents.
(Flowers of wolfsbane, Tibetan use its root for papermaking)
The craftsmanship of Tibetan paper making is a kind of fine art. Only to keep accuracy in every procedure of the processing, the craftsmen can create high quality Tibetan paper. The process is generally peeling, crashing, boiling, retting, washing, smashing and pulping. Pulping is to use taut gauze on wooden frame as the paper mold, then pour the paper pulp on the gauze and drain the water. During this process, the craftsmen must hold the frame evenly. Finally, dry the pulp in the sunshine and strip off to be the product. A piece of high quality Tibetan paper should be even in thickness, no holes, no impurity, soft and clean.
Most of the classic literatures and Buddha scriptures collected in the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sakya Monastery and other places are written or printed on Tibetan paper. The literatures still keep a perfect condition after centuries. Until the 1950s, Tibetan paper was widely used in Tibet. During its history of over 1300 years, Tibetan paper recording the history and culture of Tibet silently, and witnessed the social development of the sacred land.
(Buddha scriptures on Tibetan paper)
Today, the rapid development of tourism breathes new life to Tibetan paper. The artifacts made of Tibetan paper, such as notebook, painting, umbrella, hat, gift bag, etc., are hot sellers in Tibet and are popular souvenirs for travelers.
(Tibetan paper products)