Xuan Paper Trip: Zha Ji, Paper Making, and Xiao Zhu

(For more information about Xuan Paper, please visit inkston Xuan Paper page , where you can find detailed classification of Xuan Paper.)

For details of different types of Xuan Paper, please read Xuan Paper Buyer Guide.

Xuan Papers Shop

Old House in Zha Ji 2 In afternoon, we drove to Zhaji, a small beautiful water village near Jing Xian. Unluckily, the village’s electricity was cut off because the local wine factory was updating its power station. After 8:00 p.m., electricity finally came. We invited Xiao Zhu and Jiji to have some flowery rice wine in our room. After a couple of wines, we started talking about Xuan Paper.

Xuan Paper has to be made by hand, and is very much threatened by the modern mechanical production line. Modern production lines can produce a large volume of paper with low cost. However, production volume of handmade Xuan paper is very low. Since everything must be done by hand, labor cost is also very high. Although at the moment, modern machines cannot produce Xuan Paper, local paper makers fear that modern machines will make Xuan paper as good as handmade papers sooner or later. If this day comes, it will be the death blow for Xuan region paper industry. What’s even worse, making Xuan paper is a 108 step process and requires a lot of hard work, while the profit margin is extremely low, so many people have switched to other industries. Xiao Zhu told us that there were 1,700  to 2,000 Xuan paper workshops, and of these 70% – 80% workshops have been closed down. The remaining workshops are also on edge of being closed down.

In fact Xiao Zhu’s family workshop has also been closed several times due to economic issues. However, they always managed to reopen it when the economic situation became a bit better. In total, they have closed down the workshop three times. Xiao Zhu said that his father has spent all his life making Xuan paper, and so did his grandfather. Before his grandfather’s generation, China was at war and he isn’t sure of the history past that point.

Xiao Zhu’s father raised up Xiao Zhu and his sister alone and has spent his whole life making paper. He is too ‘stubborn’ to give it up. One year ago, he managed to reopen the workshop. At the moment, as they are not able to afford an extra worker, Xiao Zhu’s father is working alone in the workshop. Every day he gets up around 4:30 a.m. and goes to bed no earlier than midnight.

Chinese people want all things start with an auspicious beginning. Xiao Zhu’s family establised that 1 of March in 2016 would be a good day to start working, so they decided to make this day the first day of paper making after Chinese new year. On this day, Xiaozhu’s father got up every early in morning to get ready the first day of the Xuan papermaking year. He lit some incense first. Then at 9:00, he punctually lit the fireworks to mark the official opening of the working year 2016. When we saw him, he had already made a small pile of Xuan paper while the puppy, “Diudiu” wagged his tail next to him. “Diudiu” was found by Xiaozhu in street last year and is now a family member.

(In the photos, Xiao Zhu’s father is making Xuan Paper. He has been doing the same thing for all his life since he was a teenager.)


Xuan Paper Workshop
Xiao Zhu Father’s Xuan Paper workshop


Dog at the Workshop

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