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The Making of Paper in Hetian

Should learn from Japan.

View A Thread of Silk on automidori's travel map.

Hetian, August 24th 2012

This one, I totally knew from Central Asia Traveler. I don't remember whether I had read about it in Insight Guides Silk Road. When I gave my itinerary to Melike from Old Road Tours, she said nothing about this Mulberry Paper Making. Melike had always kept it in the revised itinerary (including cost) for me. Even until I left my hotel to start the tour, nothing was said. Suddenly after visiting the jade workshop, Abdul the Tour Guide said to me,

"The man who use to make paper is sick. So there's no work to be seen there. It's useless to go there."

"Is there no other place?"

I don't remember what his answer was. I repeated my question once more, but his answer was vague. I insisted that I still would like to see the paper making place, even though there's no work there.

The place, located in the alleyways, was just a house but not too small.

This is the son of the paper maker. Now, I was told that his father had passed away like a year (?) ago. Oh, I thought to myself. So? Is this a different place than the one Abdul the Tour Guide said the paper maker was sick? So there's one paper making place which maker is sick, and another which maker is gone already? What a sad story of paper makers in Hetian...!

This man was kind and friendly. He spoke no Mandarin. As he talked in Uyghur, I asked Abdul the Tour Guide what he said. Abdul the Tour Guide interpreted for me, but I wondered why his sentences were short whereas this kind man seemed to be chattering endlessly. He seemed so enthusiastic and that made me more wanting to know what he had to say. Surely enough he meant that for me than for Abdul the Tour Guide.

What Abdul the Tour Guide told me was that before this man's father breathed his last, he asked his son to keep on the work.

"Sure, sure!" I grew excited. "I also think he should keep on his father's work. Why isn't he? It's such a pity."

Abdul the Tour Guide interpreted for me, and the answer was that traditional paper sells bad in the market. People nowadays prefer the smooth modern ones which is more comfortable to write on.

Oh, that's said. They should learn from Japan, in that case. I had visited one traditional paper making workshop and wow... they created their own market. Cards, wrapping papers, wall decorations, you name it. Why should you think that paper is only for writing?

In fact, I was also told, paper was used for bandage and wrapping medicine. For the later, I have seen and experienced that. Even in my home country, Chinese pharmacists wrap medicine with paper, still. And, in the ancient time, money was made from this kind of paper because it doesn't tear easily. Should I not be proud to be Chinese?

This is the source for the paper material.

This is for cooking the paper material.

I was asked to buy one sheet of paper for 5 yuan and write something on it, like other visitors have done. Most of them were written in Chinese. I read the English ones and felt moved. Many people cared about this paper making workshop. If I stayed there and read this stack of paper, I'm sure I would be sobbing.

Amongst all the things Abdul the Tour Guide had done for me, this shot is the greatest. How it happened while the paper maker's son was turning the papers and thus made the papers foreground, providing depth to where I was sitting, is absolutely terrific composition!!

As I wrote, the boys surrounded me as if I were a magician. I forgot that they probably aren't familiar with Latin alphabets. I would have been as fascinated if I saw them writing Arabic script.

As I wrote, this kind man through Abdul the Tour Guide told me that if the paper doesn't get wet, the writings on it can last until 100 years.

The written notes get hung on the wall like this. As soon as I finished, mine was also hung up. That one on top right is from the Association of Chinese History Explorer in Japan. Yeah, yeah, Japan must share much interest in this kind of handwork.

This little girl was crying when I came. Maybe her big brothers had been teasing her or something. But then the whole attention was of course drown to me. She was left alone. When I took a picture of the stove, she stood on tip toe and peeped on my camera screen. I lowered down my camera so she could see. I scrolled the photos I had taken. When it came to her grandpa's picture, she became very excited. She rubbed my camera with her plump hand. "Baba, baba!" she cried. She pulled my camera and brought it to the kind man. "Baba, baba!"

After I finished writing, she pressed her body on me. "Baba, baba..." Oh, she must want to see her grandpa's picture again, I figured out.

Correct. She moved her hand on my camera screen as if she had just seen that picture for the first time, and again, "Baba, baba!"

Now, she gave me a sweet look while I pointed my lens towards her. That's the picture on the right. And then I lowered down my camera to show her the result. She looked at it and laugh. "Baba, baba!" She pulled my camera again and brought it to her grandpa. How different is she with the kids in Tuyoq Village.

Posted by automidori 00:16 Archived in China Tagged china paper xinjiang hetian old_road_tours abdul_wahab_tours central_asia_traveler

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