Ink and Paper, History and Prestige
Written by Li Kongmeng
As is crowned, the paper, thin and soft as it is, can be long preserved. They, ink and paper, are perfect complements for each other, highlighting five ink colors with gradience. Jiajiang paper, the best of all, does count a lot in the artistic career of the master called Zhang Daqian. It was at that time when our nation suffered its fate, that he felt relieved at the relish of the natural scenery in Sichuan province, and got inspired by ways of drawing freely.
The folklore has it that “up the car jump, in Jiajiang we arrive”. It was about two hours’ drive, along the Chengle highway, from Chengdu to Jiangjia. To the northwest is a county, seeing a river meander between two mountains, so it was called Jiajiang. Nearby, vehicles are running with leaps and bounds on the bumpy road, which, due to the production base for ceramic tile, was crushed down by heavy transportation. The sight impressed me that it is in Jiajiang, that the jumping economy coincided with the jumping traffic.
The visit to Jiajiang aims for the protection of intangible cultural heritage, since a large number of house-made paper mills existing now are on the verge of closing owing to the environmental pollution unresolved. And in 2007, responding to the appeal from some culture sectors, the techniques was included in the national intangible cultural heritage, hence, it survives.
Divided by Qingyi River, the distribution area of Jinjiang paper are mainly two: the west and the east. The former encompassed Mucheng, Nanan, Longtuo, Huatou and so on, typically with the production of such small papers as chuanlian, gongchuan and yinzhi, the latter Macun, Zhongxing, Yingjiang, Yancheng, Huangtu,and others, essentially with large papers like “Changlianwenjuan” and “Fangxitulian”. Rough calculation says, in such places as Macun, Zhongxing, Yingjiang and Yancheng, people making paper number to ten thousand, with mills to one thousand and yearly production of assorted paper four thousand tons. Macun, the most concentrating part, boasts five hundred slots, with six thousand and five hundred workers, which accounts for 50% in total population. It is the representative place of traditional techniques for paper making, compared different from the farming landscape, in that home-made paper mills scattered with small lanes, storehouse and chimney, compounding the sound of tumbling machines and capping the village with a vivacious atmosphere with pulp fully-bodied of alkali in the air.
Elegant Painting in Jia jiang
With the prosperity of paper mills in Jiajiang, a problem, found lingering on the heads of people, is why Jiajiang, since located in the remote southern part, is the cradle of these high-quality paper? It was because of the climate that the bamboo forests, serving for the raw materials in the production of paper, found its abundance, with the living habit “we can live without meat, but not with bamboo” formed. But how can it be that the easily-found bamboos, which makes the paper in Jiajiang, borns its brilliance and elegance of drawing there only?
The mention of paper making reminds people of Cai Lun. But it,in fact, dated earlier in time. When professor Li Ling in Peking University put forward an interesting question: "what kind of sanitary issue is it before paper is invented by Cai lun? seemingly vulgar, it was actually a" blind point “in academia. As Song Yingxing also pointed out in “Heavenly Creations”, that it was unequal if paper making traced back to ancient times finally found records in Han or Jin dynasty. He reckoned that its origin was attributed to the ancient time, but not Han or Jin dynasty. According to archaeological discoveries, assuredly speaking, paper making dated to the first period of Han dynasty, as “Fang Matan” and “Ba qiao” paper, relatively unearthed in 1986, in Gansu Tianshui and in Xi’an Ba qiao, which were said to be the earliest discovered, made from hemp, colored yellow, without smooth. Till the second period of Han dynasty, by a wider adoption of common bark, hemp, scrap and net rags, some improvements were also seen in the technology of paper making, with quality, cost and output greatly bettered, winning the favor of the emperor, who therefore made it popular as “Caihou” paper nationwide. Cailun, however, finally was framed into death for the court fight despite his great contributions. Later, on the papers wrote the history of Han dynasty, with the biography of Cai lun, covering three hundred words, included, and it, being well-circulated, gave slight soothing to people.
The archaeological findings suggested that paper was made early in Guan zhong area (Ba qiao paper and Fang Matan paper, etc), with “Cai lun" paper made in the vicinity of Chang’an, necessarily associating the cradle of civilization with the paper of early time. On the way from Gan su to Guan zhong, the Jing river flows into Wei he, by way of Gao ling, Shan’xi. In later period of Zhou dynasty, Gao jing, Pei jing as capitals and Chang’an as too in Qin and Han dynasties, have also seen the civilization entering into historical records via the rivers.
Along the bank of Qing yi river lies the reason for which Jiajiang paper enjoy the most popularity, and in the north of the city is Qian foya, on which erect a boulder impressively engraved three characters (meaning the source of the Jing river). In the twenty-three-year reign of Kangxi, emperor in Qing dynasty, according to the “Records of the Rehabilitation of Qian Foyan”, which stated the origin of the name, it is that two thousand years ago, after the Qin dynasty completed the reunification, there happened a massive immigration, when people came thousands of miles to the southwest for settlement, far from the Jing river in Shann’xi. Upon the immediate arrival, they were overwhelmed by the nostalgic feelings for hometown. And to appease the reminiscence, the officials said: “isn’t it the source of the Jing river, pointing to the river flowing out from the valley. Being far away from their hometown, they felt relieved at hearing that. Thus, it got its name. The carvings on the cliff was made by the department official Zhang ting in Ming dynasty. Perhaps, among the immigrants are some craftsmen making paper generations by generations. Coincidently, Jing county, China’s most famous “paper town”, fared likewise. The secluded villages in Hui zhou (a place shirking Qin dynasty) and Cao family (making paper by generations) in Song dynasty also immigrated to there from Shannxi. Though thousands of miles apart, they are closely connected by paper making.
It is perhaps to my bold assumption that the techniques of making paper circulate in the Jing river, while it is clearly recorded that the mass production started in Tang dynasty. According to the journals of Jiajiang county, in the eighteenth years of Tang dynasty, a large number of artisans followed Tang Minghuang into Sichuan with matured techniques of making "bamboo" paper. Jiajiang became the production base for "bamboo" paper. The Song Dynasty, with the flourishing production of “bamboo” paper in Sichuan, has seen it widely applied in the printing industry. In Yuan and Ming Dynasties, Jiajiang paper was reputed for its good quality. According to the historical records in the Ming Dynasty, down the hills of Jia ding, it is dotted with paper houses, with its paper thin and endurable. In the early Qing Dynasty, “Jia” paper boasted its unique features, with various kind, large quantity and good quality. Especially in the early years of Kangxi, when the official examination came to the culmination, two kinds of paper, named “Changlianwenjuan" and “fangxitulian”, had been officially ordered for the mere use of royal family and official examination, after the official test and trial use by the emperors Kang xi and Qian long. The annual tribute of paper accounts for more than ten thousand for the two uses. “Jia ding government recorded that, “Jia jiang paper accounted for half of the use in the Sichuan”, through which we can see the dominance of Jiajiang paper in Sichuan.
After the Qing Dynasty, Jia jiang county had seen a further increase in the volume of the hand-made paper, in terms of which, by the 1939, statistics had showed that there were in total three series and more than 50 varieties. Specifications divided paper into the large and the small, such small ones as Gong chuan paper, Chuan lian paper and printing paper. Colors fell into the white and the dyed paper, such white ones as Gong churn paper, Fen baozhi, Tu baozhi, Shui paper and Lao loan paper, and dyed ones as Yin zhu, Chong zhu, Ju qing and Song jian, etc. Culture paper separated into two types, the primary color and the bleaching, the former including Dui fang, Gong chuan, Lao loan paper, and the latter Fen duifang, Fen gongchuan, Fen shui paper and Fen lianshi,ect.
Of the “Four jewels of scholars”, named ink, yan, brush and paper, xuan paper is the most famous, which have the say for the paper used for traditional Chinese painting, and for a long time, Jiajiang handmade paper, known as the “paper for painting” obviously belongs to “borrowing”. However, in 1981, Ministry of the third Industry issued a national notice that (in charge of the cultural products) nothing but the paper made of Qing tan and produced in An hui province can be called Xuan paper, others renamed as painting paper, maintaining the reputation intact. Since then, the time-honored Jinjiang paper had been chosen outstandingly, showcasing the uniqueness and confidence, which had been searched long ago.
Traffic: New South Gate Station, Chengdu - Jiajiang, fared 40 yuan
Self-Driving Route: From Chengdu, along the Beijing Kunming high-speed /G5, at the travel of 39 kilometers (via Chengdu toll station), from Meishan / Leshan exit, via Chengle /S7 at the travel of 63.5 kilometers from the Jiajiang exit, about 13 kilometers to Jiajiang. It takes about 125 kilometers and about 1 hours and 40 minutes
Features: Qian foya, scenic spot, Dongfeng dam and Sha luogou in Mu Cheng