Shiqiao Miao Village of Danzhai County, Guizhou is one of the villages where villagers continue to earn their living by producing and selling hand-made papers and products. Today, ancient way of hand-made paper has been replaced by modern production and process. The tradition of hand-made paper is still kept in Shiqiao. It is said that the paper making in Shiqiao Miao Village has a history of over 1,000 years. By using Han people's experience, the local Miao people use high-quality spring water, tree roots and bark to make papers.
The houses of Miao people in this area are all built of wooden logs on the foundation of huge rocks - strong, simple, yet artistic. Once considered one of the four greatest inventions in ancient China, paper-making method now is a big tourist attraction for local cultural exploration.
The raw material is the bark of a special kind of tree, just like in the old time. From collecting tree bark, to pulling off the dry paper from the baking wall, it altogether takes 14 steps to finish making a piece of paper, all manual.
Following the paper screens lined along the main street, I found the largest paper making mill among the dozen family workshops in the village.
This is where the step of scooping up paper pulp takes place. Paper pulp is first stirred in the big stone tub; then workers use this screen-like tool to shake and stir until a layer of paper pulp is left on the screen, then pile the damp paper layer upon layer. A skillful worker can make six to seven hundred sheets of paper a day this way. The owner of this workshop expanded the product line from traditional white paper to colorful paper with customized designs. Innovation, innovation, innovation, it's always the key to a successful business. The dizzying color, natural texture, original design, every thing about the paper calls for a shopping spree. Even if you are not a compulsive shopper like me, you will end up stuff your suitcase with these darlings.
However, with modern technology, changing demand and behavior of consumers, the number of villagers who can survive by keeping this tradition has declined from year to year, to left around 40 families only. Their craft of paper making is regarded as a “live fossil”. Guizhou Tourism Administration aims to preserve this tradition while at the same time promoting this unique culture to the world. The recipient of a PATA Foundation grant in 2006 aims to preserve a craft that locals have been practicing since about 100 BC. Construction of a display centre for the ancient craft of papermaking is nearly complete. A papermaking workshop is already in use.
Guizhou Tourism Administration considers tourism to be one of means to reduce poverty and increase the quality of life for the people. The Administratiion thus aims to preserve this tradition while at the same time promoting this unique culture to the world.
PATA Foundation is pleased to award its grants to this worthy project in China, where no grant has been awarded to in the past many years. With tremendous growth China tourism is experiencing, it is increasingly crucial to take necessary steps to ensure sustainable growth. The Foundation hopes to continue its co-operations with Chinese government in preserving country’s culture and heritage which are dated back over thousands years of civilization".
Come to Shiqiao, you'll have a chance to witness how they make papers. Today you can see almost every village make different types of paper for decoration house, lantern.