Handmade Paper-making in Puli, Taiwan
The handmade paper industry of Puli, was initiated during Japanese colonisation of Taiwan in 1935. Due in part to the quality of the water of the region, many papermaking factories were established by the Japanese between 1935 and 1945. After Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China, demands remained for handmade paper.
From the 1970s, the paper production in Puli developed rapidly as the economy grew in Taiwan with its handmade paper being exported to Japan and Korea. Paper production reached its prime between 1980 and 1990 at which time there were more than 50 factories in Puli.
After 1990, a number of factors including lack of skilled workers, rising wages and difficulty to access raw materials, led to many paper factories having to close. In 1994 a proposal was made to develop traditional industries and tourism. Since that time Guangxing Papermaking Factory has developed ways to promote the paper industry in Puli, including an active educational programme.
The production of paper at Guangxing Papermaking Factory is modeled on Japanese handmade papermaking. However it differs from many small-scale Japanese papermaking workshops in the following ways. Raw materials such as kozo are imported from other parts of Asia including the Philippines. The screening process that the factory employs to produce its handmade paper is partly mechanised; the pulp is cast by machine towards the deckle and mould held by the worker – as opposed to the keta (papermaking mould) and su (flexible screen) being cast down multiple times into a vat. In order to prevent the long fibres of the raw material such as kozo being caught up in the mechanism, the fibres are shortened before screening. One paper (for calligraphy and Chinese painting) has been developed from water bamboo skin called Xifuxuan (cherish fortune paper). This is mixed with other unknown fibres, all raw materials having been chemically bleached. Papers are dried using heated steel drums onto which they are brushed.
In addition local materials such as grasses are used to produce craft papers.