蔡倫現身──樹火紀念紙博物館

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1999 / 10月

文‧蔡文婷 圖‧卜華志


紙是中國人的四大發明之一。長久以來,人們一直認為紙是東漢蔡倫所發明的,直到本世紀初,中國陸續出土了西漢古紙,引發了考古學界近年來,對蔡倫是否為紙發明人爭議不休的辯論。

想要深入探究紙的發明,造紙的歷史,手工紙的示範製造過程等紙的傳奇,走一趟樹火紀念紙博物館,將會發現紙的故事真是不「紙」這樣呢!


在台北市長安東路二段來來回回的人們,大多不知道路邊一棟不起眼的四層公寓,其實是一座紙的博物館,展示著紙的人文研究與科學實驗。

今年初春,台灣和大陸的紙史專家陳大川和潘吉星就在這座紙博物館相會,針對蔡倫究竟是不是紙的發明人,提出各自不同的見解。

人們所以認為蔡倫發明造紙,因為《後漢書•蔡倫傳》明確地指出蔡倫以前的紙,實際上是縑帛。然而從民國二十二年以來,在新疆、西安、內蒙等地,陸續出土了羅布淖爾紙、灞橋紙、金關紙,根據相關出土的西漢文物,蔡倫發明造紙學說也引起正反兩極學者爭論不休。

依然主張蔡倫是紙發明者的紙博館顧問陳大川表示,這些蔡倫之前出土的「紙」,可能是只是積壓成片的植物纖維;或是這些紙並未經過切料、漚煮舂搗和抄造的基本工序,非常粗糙,無法書寫,只能算是紙的雛形而已。因此蔡倫依然是紙的發明者,是他總結前人的經驗,把造紙技術提昇到可以書寫的階段,對人類文化產生巨大貢獻。

對於這樣影響整個人類文明的偉大發明,台灣終於也有了一座紙博物館來訴說著紙的故事。

不死的心願

紙博館的故事開始於陳樹火先生。陳樹火一生從事紙的工作,年輕時在埔里製造傳統手工紙,後來生產特殊用紙,直到五十九歲,患有心臟病的他被醫生宣布只剩十年的壽命,於是他開始想著:書本上都說紙是中國人發明的,但在日本有大大小小各式的紙博物館,台灣卻沒有,他一次又一次地向女兒訴說他的理想。

「父親一生專心於特殊用紙的開發,嘗試把紙的可能性發展到最大,他總是隨時在紙的正面、背面畫滿機械圖,」陳瑞惠表示,父親甚至構想把整個造紙工廠的流程都搬進博物館。

然而,就在計畫構想都討論的差不多時,九○年陳樹火夫妻搭機前往大陸旅遊,卻在廣州白雲機場空難中不幸罹難。留下未竟的心願與理想,由女兒陳瑞惠繼承,經過五年的籌畫終於成立了今天的樹火紙博館。

相較於一般博物館靜態的陳列展示,紙博館著重現場示範、親手操作的動態設計,使它獨樹一格,成為最受孩子們喜愛的博物館之一。單單這個暑假,就有來自全省兩千多個小朋友來訪。

從一樓到四樓每個小角落,包括廁所,都陳列著紙的誕生、保存、再生,與造紙的材料、紙的歷史、紙的科學實驗,還有小朋友最喜歡的手抄紙操作。藉由實物觀看與動手觸摸,彷彿進入了一個「紙玩具工廠」。

紙短情長

走進博物館,才通過櫃臺,眼前就是一個活生生的造紙廠。紅磚牆面上,工作人員拿著一個大抄簾(四邊木框、中間竹廉)在示範。將抄簾放入紙漿中搖動數次,紙漿就薄薄、勻勻地沈在抄簾上,壓乾後,接著熟練地將抄簾覆在烘台上,用烘刷輕輕將紙刷平,就是一張漂亮的手工紙了。

「小朋友,你們猜工作人員手上的抄簾有多重?」示範過程中解說員與小朋友一問一答,「不對,不對,答案是沒下水之前重三到五公斤,相當一個小嬰兒;然而一入了水卻變成二十五到三十公斤重,差不多是一個一年級小朋友的體重。一個師傅一天要將抄簾放入水中一千五百次左右。」

「哇!好厲害啊!」「好辛苦哦!」聽了解說員的解說,孩子們馬上體會了造紙工作的不容易。「除了傳遞紙的知識,藉著技術示範,我們希望說的是,紙張之外的人文關懷,」紙博館執行長陳瑞惠指出。

百樣紙、千種樹

看過工作人員的手抄紙示範後,樓梯轉角的落地窗外,是一個種有楮樹、蕘花、馬拉巴栗和桑樹等的小花圃。每一種植物都跟紙有關,桑樹是中國銀票的紙漿來源,宣紙用的是蕘花;至於常被打上蝴蝶結當做發財樹的馬拉巴栗,其根部的的萃取液則是台灣普遍使用的抄紙助料。加了抄紙助料,紙漿中的紙纖維便會均勻地懸浮在水槽中,不會沈在槽底;同時藉著它的滑性,紙與紙之間也易於分離。

二樓裡,說的是紙的人文故事,時光隧道內首先上演著紙在人類文明史上的前世今生。

牆面上掛著墨西哥人用樹皮條編織、敲打成薄片的樹皮紙;埃及人將紙草編織壓平的草紙,還有印度人的棕櫚葉。這些東西都曾是各個民族用來記錄與書寫的工具,然而從今天「紙」的定義來看,這些統統都不是紙。

所謂紙,必須是將造紙原料的纖維全部打散,重新編排後,才能叫做紙,因此壓乾輾平的樹葉或樹皮都不能叫做紙。

在紙發明以前,古代書寫的材料,先有金石、甲骨,然材料堅硬,書寫費力。至於木簡,笨重又不便於攜帶,像是秦始皇每日批閱的奏文動輒一百多斤;戰國時學富「五車」的惠施,車裝的木簡,不過與現代一個中學生書包中的書籍差不多。而樹葉或樹皮,表面粗糙不平,性質脆弱,不能隨意舒捲。至於絹帛雖然是理想的書畫工具,卻非常昂貴,一般人根本用不起。

兩千年前,中國造紙術的發明改良後,紙變得平整潔白、質輕柔軟,又可大量便宜製造,不僅使書本變得易於攜帶,也催發印刷術的發明,讓閱讀變得更加普遍和大眾化。

工作人員呂玉華表示:很多人對單單是紙也能成立一個博物館感到納悶,其實一張紙的誕生,與當地的氣候、樹種相關;一張紙的存在則關係著知識的普及,紀錄著民族或個人的歷史記憶呢!

水墨長河源於紙

在中國常民生活裡,透過紙燈籠,顫動的燭火散發著溫潤的光芒;紙窗上,竹影搖映宛若水墨圖畫。暮春三月,小兒女對天放紙鷂;中元于蘭盆會,滿天紙錢飛作紙蝴蝶,在在都是一種紙的生活情調。

造紙技術的改進,終於產生了平白柔韌的手工宣紙,更是影響著中國人書寫的工具,書法與水墨藝術的登峰造極。

王羲之的蘭亭集序如行雲流水,懷素的自敘帖字如飛瀑直下,若非有滑潤的造紙技術,恐怕書法家再怎麼胸懷萬里,下了筆卻也只能斷斷續續!

為何漢代以前的繪畫大多只有簡單的水墨線條?唐代卻書畫家輩出?書法家由楷書、行書、到大草、狂草、連綿草等書體,紙質的改進應是最大因素。尤其是宣紙,更是被書畫家們稱為潔白可愛,冠於全國。

除了光白可愛的外貌,宣紙還具有柔韌的內在質感。拿起一張宣紙來抖動,軟綿綿、輕飄飄,沒有多大響聲;折疊數十次也不會斷裂。甚至浸水之後,還可以輕輕拎起。這樣的優點,使得書畫家在宣紙上揮毫時,即使用重筆飽墨也不會破損。

對於中國的書畫家而言,紙的品行最重要的在於「暈墨性」。也就是好的書畫紙要能使墨水在紙上渲染出豐富的濃淡層次來。一幅潑墨山水,要能呈現山水層疊、雲氣濃淡的立體感,還得畫家功力與筆下紙材相輔相成才行。

紙很聰明

在二樓聽完歷史,接著是理性的三樓,每個小朋友在這裡拿到一個「紙科學實驗袋」,裡面放著報紙、棉紙、影印機用紙、黃色紙、藍色紙數十種紙。這個實驗室裡,有六個實驗台,在顯微鏡台上,可以看出手工棉紙和機器製紙兩者組織的不同。在強度性台上,可以戳戳看,牛皮紙和手工棉紙哪一種的韌度高?將藍紙和黃紙分別覆在文字上,就會瞭解為什麼航空信箋都用藍色紙,原來藍色紙的透明度較低,這樣我們寫在信上的秘密就不會被看透了。此外,什麼紙容易渲染?什麼紙容易起毛?小朋友在實驗台上一一找到答案。

兩面牆上還有好玩的展示。一邊牆上有防鏽紙、防臭的鞋墊紙、久洗不壞的洗衣店標籤紙,紙的功能還真是無奇不有呢!

另一邊牆上則有十個問題箱:包括紙的浮水印如何製造?紙為什麼會發黃?紙的開數怎麼算?一關接一關,按下按鈕,循著亮燈就可知道自己是不是答對了。「紙博館的設計很生動活潑,像是一座會『動』的博物館,」帶隊前來參觀的博愛國小謝明珠媽媽表示。

礙於空間,小朋友們最期待的手工抄紙區設在博物館的天台上。棚架下,小朋友一個個各捲起袖子,拿起小小的抄紙簾放入紙漿中,體會紙漿在手上飄動的感覺,然後交由解說員們以特急件速度將紙張烘乾,好趕在離去前,將小朋友自己做的紙,和寫有大名的獎狀交到每一個小朋友手上,恭禧大家完成今天的「紙博之旅」。

門檻跨不過

自從九五年開館以來,沒有廣告,不作宣傳,紙博館就憑著各種紙展品和生動活潑的展示,在口耳相傳之下吸引國小、幼稚園,甚或安親班等上千團體前來參觀。尤其當國小三年級上到蔡倫造紙一課之時,許多學校都會前來紙博館上課,甚至遠從花蓮、台南等地前來。

除了學校,國內外、公私立博物館也對這小而美的紙博館充滿了好奇,一一前來一探究竟,還成為外交部招待外賓的參觀重點之一呢!

然而,去年五月,台北市教育局卻行文紙博館,不符法令必須停業,也立刻將私人博物館的設立問題浮出台面。由於國內一直沒有私人博物館專用的法令規章,針對近十年來如雨後春筍般林立的私人博物館,若要合法經營,目前只能比照公立大型博物館的法令,顯然門檻過高。

小型博物館面對已經定型的空間,若要改頭換面合於法令規章,諸如電梯的設立,地面樓板面積的載重量等,勢必要龐大的經費,因此紙博館決定恢復基金會的運作方式,改名為「財團法人樹火紀念紙文化基金會」,有興趣的觀眾必須事先預約,基金會再以活動名稱開放觀眾進入參觀。

博物館「長腳」

不過紙博館的功能不減,更重新出發,發揮私人小型美術館靈活的優點,它「長腳」了。

在宜蘭、台中、花蓮、高雄等地方,都可以發現紙博館將館藏搬到地方來。在與省政府配合下,紙博館舉行多次巡迴展出,設定主題、主動出擊。「不紙這樣」旅行展訴說著紙的可塑性;「永不紙息」展示紙的回收。最近的「博物館在我家」活動,則是將博物館比喻成我們的家,來介紹博物館的條件與功能。

展場裡,博物館不再高高在上:收集研究的部門彷彿書房,展示規畫的空間一如客廳;廚房則負責出版編輯,將資料變成一道一道可口的書籍;可以打球、聊天的庭院是教育推廣的好地方。

從開館到封館;從「博物館在我家」到「博物館長腳」,歷經了挫折與挑戰的樹火紙博物館,真的是不「紙

」這樣,而且永不「紙」息。

p.128

糊紙窗、做燈籠、寫書法,多彩多樣的手工紙,讓中國的常民生活散發出一種紙的生活情調。

p.129

狹窄瘦長的老舊公寓,經過一番設計,成為都市裡一座小巧有趣的紙博館。

p.131

大姊姊手拿「抄簾」示範,讓小朋友看到手工紙的製造過程。

樹皮、桑樹、紙絮,都是造紙材料。在紙博館不僅可以看到造紙的過程,還可以摸到造紙的材料。

p.132

在紙博館學到紙的歷史,紙的科學遊戲,還有自己動手造紙,最後每個小朋友都拿到一張紙博館的畢業證書。

東漢的蔡倫是否是紙的發明人尚有爭議,然而他對造紙技術的貢獻無可否認。

p.135

紙博館最近長腳了,將展品帶到台灣各個角落,完全發揮小型博物館靈活與彈性的特質。

博物館的眾多展品,必須先分類歸納登錄,才不會盲目重複地收藏。

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近期文章

EN

Su-Ho Memorial Paper Museum

Tsai Wen-ting /photos courtesy of Pu Hua-chih /tr. by David Mayer

Paper is one of China's four great in-ventions. For a long time, everyone agreed that paper had been invented by Cai Lun during the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 AD). Early this century, however, a series of archeological finds revealed that something regarded by many as paper already existed as far back as the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-24 AD). There is now a great debate over the question of whether the invention of paper should be credited to Cai Lun.

Are you interested in finding out about the invention of paper, the history of papermaking in Taiwan, and watching a demonstration of traditional papermaking techniques? If so, you should plan a trip to the Su-Ho Memorial Paper Museum!


Section 2 of Changan Road in Taipei is a canyon of closely packed low-rise office buildings and shops. Amidst the hustle and bustle, it's easy to pass right by the unassuming four-story building at #68 Changan Road without noticing anything special, but it houses a fascinating paper museum where you can learn all about the history and techniques of papermaking.

Chen Ta-chuan, a specialist in the history of paper, met here early this past spring with Pan Jixing, a counterpart from mainland China, and the two got into a debate about whether paper had been invented by Cai Lun.

Many who argue that Cai Lun invented paper point to a passage in the Hou Han Shu, an ancient history of the Later ("Eastern") Han dynasty which states that it was actually very fine silk, not paper, that was used prior to Cai Lun's time. Since 1933, however, artifacts from the Western Han dynasty unearthed at archeological digs in Xinjiang, Xi'an, Inner Mongolia, and elsewhere have spurred furious debate in the academic community about Cai Lun's place in the history of papermaking.

Chen Ta-chuan, a consultant to Su-Ho Memorial Paper Museum, still considers Cai Lun the inventor of paper. According to Chen, the "paper" dating back to before Cai Lun's time was either plant fiber pressed into thin sheets, or in some other way had not been through the four basic phases of true papermaking-bark stripping; retting and boiling; beating into pulp; and dipping. The older "paper" is extremely coarse. It is useless for writing purposes, says Chen, and can only be considered a predecessor to paper. He argues that it was Cai Lun who drew from the experience of those who went before him, refining his techniques to the point where paper could be used for writing. This advance constituted a great leap forward in the progress of human civilization.

Now, at long last, Taiwan has a paper museum to tell the story of this fabulous invention that has changed the course of civilization.

A determined dreamer

The story of Su-Ho Memorial Paper Museum begins with Chen Su-ho, who spent his entire life in the making of paper. As a young man he had engaged in traditional papermaking in Puli, and he eventually developed a process for making various specialty papers. At the age of 59, however, his doctor informed him that he only had ten years left to live due to a chronic heart problem. The news spurred a thought-the books say paper was invented by the Chinese, so why should Japan have all sorts of paper museums both large and small, while Taiwan should have none? Time and again he told his daughter about his dream of opening a paper museum.

"My father spent his whole life developing specialty papers," says Chen Ruey-huey. "He was always trying to find ways to bring out the maximum potential of paper. He continually sketched papermaking machinery on pieces of paper; when he filled up one side, he'd start sketching on the other." According to Ms. Chen, her father even thought about moving an entire papermaking process from the factory into the museum.

Unfortunately, just as plans for the museum were nearing completion in 1990, Chen Su-ho and his wife were killed in an airplane crash in Guangzhou. His unfinished project was taken up by his daughter, who finally succeeded in opening the Su-Ho Memorial Paper Museum five years later.

The paper museum is a much more lively place than most museums. It stresses the importance of live demonstrations as well as hands-on participation by visitors. It is one of the best museums in Taipei to take children to. During the past summer vacation alone, more than 2,000 children from throughout Taiwan visited the museum.

From the first floor though the fourth, every nook and cranny in the museum (even the bathroom!) is filled with exhibits explaining the production, preservation, and recycling of paper. You can also learn about the raw materials used in papermaking and the history of paper, and you can carry out little experiments. Children are always excited to have the opportunity to create their own handmade paper. By watching demonstrations and getting a hands-on tour of the papermaking process, visitors practically get the feeling that they have entered a "paper toy factory."

Who would have guessed?

On the first floor of the museum just past the front desk is an honest-to-goodness paper factory. Mounted on the red brick wall are an old-fashioned wooden frame and bamboo screen. A museum employee shows how such a screen is used. First it is dipped into a pulp vat and shaken a few times. When it is removed from the vat, a thin, even layer of pulp lies atop the screen. Once this pulp is dried, the papermaker skillfully places the screen on a drying table. A drying brush is used to smooth the pulp into a sheet of flat, smooth, handmade paper.

During the demonstration the guide challenges the children: "See the screen he's holding now? Guess how much it weighs!" After several wrong guesses, the guide explains: "Before the screen is dipped into the vat it weighs three to five kilos, which is about what a new-born baby weighs. After the screen is taken out of the vat, though, it weighs 25 to 30 kilos, which is about what a first-grader weighs. A papermaker has to lift the screen from the vat about 1,500 times a day!"

"Wow! They must be strong!" "Huh?! I would die!" The kids grasp immediately the difficulty of papermaking. "Besides teaching about papermaking techniques," says museum director Chen Ruey-huey, "we also want to use these demonstrations to show people what life is like for the people involved in papermaking."

Reams of paper, scads of plants

After the papermaking demonstration is finished, the visitor climbs the stairs. Outside the glass wall on the landing, planted in a tiny little garden are several trees that provide raw material for the papermaking process. The mulberry tree, for example, was used in centuries past to make money, while the canescent wikstroemia has long been used for the high-quality Gampi paper favored by painters and calligraphers. The garden also features a malabar chestnut, which is best known to people in Taiwan as the tree that you tie bows to in hopes of becoming rich. The papermaker has a different use for this tree-the root extract is used throughout Taiwan as a pulp additive. Once this additive has been put into the pulp vat, the pulp fiber floats to the surface, where it spreads out evenly. The slippery consistency of the additive also makes it easy to separate individual sheets of paper.

On the second floor the visitor learns about the impact of paper upon mankind. The first exhibits recap the relationship between paper and human civilization throughout history up to the present day. Several interesting exhibits hang on the wall, including bark from Mexico that has been pounded thin and woven into a sheet of something similar to paper, papyrus from Egypt, and a palm leaf from India. All of these things have been used by various cultures for writing, but none constitutes "paper" as we define the term today.

To make paper you must take plant matter, completely separate the fibers, and recombine them, otherwise you haven't made paper. Pressing or rolling bark or tree leaves alone does not result in paper.

Before the invention of paper, people wrote on many types of materials, including metal, stone, tortoise shells, and bones, but it was a difficult task to write into such hard materials. Strips of wood were also used, but these were heavy and difficult to transport. The first emperor of the Qin dynasty, for example, reviewed large numbers of documents every day, and the total weight often came to over 100 catties (50 kilograms). Then there was Hui Shi, the famous scholar from the Warring States period who was widely praised for having "a library to fill five wagons." A personal library at that time consisted of wooden strips, however; Hui Shi's five wagons probably only held about as much writing as a junior high school student today stuffs into his backpack every morning! Tree leaves and bark were used, too, but they had a rough surface and were too brittle to withstand much folding. Silk was an ideal writing medium, but it was also extremely expensive, and far beyond the reach of most people.

Today, 2,000 years after the Chinese invented it, paper has become smooth, light-weight, and flexible. Furthermore, it can be produced inexpensively and in mass quantity. It is highly portable, and the ready availability of it has spurred the development of printing, thus making reading an activity for the common man.

According to museum employee Lu Yu-hua, many people express surprise that there should be an entire museum devoted solely to paper, but when you really think about it, there's really nothing strange about it. When paper was first invented, the raw materials from which it was made differed from one region to the next. A single sheet of paper spoke volumes about local climates and vegetation; its very existence enabled the spread of knowledge, and could record the history of an individual or an entire nation!

Sheets of paper, rivers of ink

Paper occupies a prominent place in the everyday life of the Chinese people. The warm candle light of a Chinese lantern dances against the paper in which the lantern is wrapped. The shadows of courtyard bamboo flicker across rice-papered windows, creating a picture as beautiful as anything the most accomplished artist could put on canvas. Children fly paper kites in late spring. In the middle of Ghost Month every summer, when paper money is burned to send the ghosts back to the netherworld for another year, the glowing ashes flit gracefully into the air like butterflies. All of these scenes would be impossible without paper.

Papermaking techniques gradually improved to the point where the Chinese were producing handmade Gampi paper- smooth, white, flexible, and strong. This outstanding paper had a profound impact upon Chinese calligraphic instruments and propelled calligraphy and ink painting to the pinnacle of perfection.

When the famous fourth-century calligrapher Wang Xizhi wrote a poignant description of the fleeting happiness of a reunion of literati at Lan Ting Pavilion, he left behind a piece of writing that has stunned generations with its fluid brush strokes. The fame of Huai Su, too, has lived on for centuries, all because of the beauty of his calligraphy. Without smooth writing paper, however, these artists' brushes would not have been able to "dance across the paper" no matter how their spirits might have willed it.

Why is it that Chinese painting prior to the Han dynasty only consisted of sparely sketched inks, while calligraphers and painters emerged in such great numbers in the Tang dynasty? Improvements in paper quality were almost certainly the main factor behind the evolution of Chinese calligraphy from regular script to running hand and increasingly free versions of cursive script. Calligraphers and painters were especially fond of Gampi paper for its white color.

Besides its white color, the superiority of Gampi paper also derives from the fact that it is supple yet tough at the same time. If you pick up a sheet of Gampi paper and shake it vigorously, it doesn't make much sound because it is so soft. Fold it dozens of times and it still doesn't tear. Even after it is soaked in water you can still pick it up without hurting it. Painters and calligraphers need not worry about damaging Gampi paper even when they execute heavy strokes using a brush fully laden with ink.

For calligrapher and painters, the best type of paper is one that will enable them to achieve subtly shaded half-tones. In a traditional Chinese ink landscape, the artist must be able to show the gradually increasing faintness of successive mountain peaks. It isn't enough to be skilled with a brush; you have to have high-quality paper, too.

This paper's got brains

After the guide finishes the historical presentation on the second floor, the group continues to the third floor, where each child receives an "experiment kit" that contains dozens of different types of paper-newsprint, cotton paper, photocopier paper, yellow paper, blue paper, and more. The room has six lab tables. On one table you can use a microscope to see how the structure of handmade cotton paper differs from that of machine-made paper. On another table you can poke at a manila envelope and a sheet of handmade cotton paper to see which is stronger. When you place the blue and yellow sheets over something with printed text on it, you will understand why aerograms are all blue-paper of this color is less transparent, so it keeps strangers from reading your mail. How quickly does each kind of paper absorb ink? With what kind of paper are strands of fiber most likely to come loose from the surface? The children find the answers to these questions and more at the lab tables.

There are also some very fun exhibits hanging on both walls. On one wall you find paper used for rust-proofing, anti-odor shoe inserts, and paper tags for laundry services (useful because they can go through the wash unscathed). There's no limit to what you can do with paper!

On the other wall hang ten display cases that quiz the visitor about paper. How do they make watermarks on paper? Why does paper turn yellow over time? The questions are printed on the case, and there is a button next to each question. When you press the button next to question #1, for example, the display case lights up to show the corresponding answer. Says Hsieh Ming-chu, who has brought a group of kids from Po-ai Elementary School to tour the museum, "This museum is very lively and fun. It's got a lot of activities you can take part in."

Due to the lack of space, the museum had to put an extra structure on the roof to house the activity that children look forward to the most-making paper by hand. One by one, the children roll up their sleeves and dip a small screen into the pulp vat. One by one, they experience the feel of the stringy pulp slithering over their skin. They hand their screens to the guides, who quickly set about the drying process so as to have the paper ready by the time the children leave the museum. The children are also presented with a certificate to serve as a memento of their visit.

Stringent requirements

Since opening in 1995, the museum has never used advertising or publicity, but has relied instead solely on the quality of its exhibits and the entertaining nature of its demonstrations to attract visitors. Word about the museum has spread especially quickly among elementary schools, kindergartens, and even an qin ban (a combination daycare center and cram school that many elementary school children attend after school). Over 1,000 schools have sent groups to the museum already. Third-grade teachers especially like to take their classes here after they get to the lesson where children learn that Cai Lun invented paper. Some schools from as far away as Hualien and Tainan have sent classes to the museum.

Besides schools, many public and private museums from both Taiwan and abroad have sent visitors to have a look at this small jewel of a museum. Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs even considers the paper museum an important stop for state visitors!

Unfortunately, the Taipei Municipal Government's Bureau of Education notified the museum last May that it was in violation of the city's building codes and would have to close down. This turn of events immediately brought the issue of private museums to the fore. Taiwan has never had any legislation on the books to deal with private museums, thus the many such museums that have popped up all over Taiwan in the past ten years have had to meet the same requirements that apply to large public museums. The requirements contained in this legislation are clearly too stringent for many of them.

It is an extremely expensive proposition for a small private museums to add elevators, reinforce the floors to increase the load capacity, and do other necessary renovations to bring their buildings into line with building codes. The museum decided to reorganize itself as a foundation, and it was renamed the Su-Ho Memorial Paper Cultural Foundation. Anyone interested in visiting must first make an appointment, and the foundation admits the visitors as "special guests."

Hitting the road

This change has not in any way diminished the organization's presence, and in fact the museum has begun to take advantage of the nimbleness that comes with its small size by taking its exhibits on the road.

Working in cooperation with the provincial government, the museum has organized several traveling exhibits that have been to such places as Ilan, Taichung, Hualien, and Kaohsiung. An exhibit entitled More Than Meets the Eye emphasized the versatility of paper, while Paper is Forever focused on the theme of recycling. More recently, the foundation has organized My Home, My Museum. In this exhibit, the many things you find in the home are all made of paper, and the home is likened to a museum, with different parts of the home serving the same functions as different parts of a museum.

The study, for example, is likened to a museum's collections and research department, while the living room is likened to an exhibit area. As for the kitchen, that's where a museum prepares its publications. The function of the garden, where you can chat and exchange ideas, is kind of like the role a museum plays as it attempts to communicate its message to society.

The paper museum has already weathered one serious storm in its short existence, and it has proved to be a hardy survivor, organizing a number of outstanding temporary exhibits. There truly is something special about the Su-Ho Memorial Paper Museum. Expect this beautiful gem to be a fixture on Changan East Road for a long time to come!

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A stunning variety of handmade paper has added a note of spice to everyday life in China-witness the beauty of paper windows, Chinese lanterns, and Chinese calligraphy.

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A long, narrow space that once housed apartments has been renovated into a small but fascinating paper museum in the middle of bustling Taipei.

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A museum employee shows young visitors how a screen is used to turn out handmade paper.

Tree bark, mulberry trees, and various other fibers can all be used as raw materials in the papermaking process. At the Paper Museum you can watch paper being made, and you can also put your hands on the raw materials.

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At the Paper Museum, visitors learn about the history of paper, participate in experiments and games, and try their hand at papermaking. Before leaving, these children receive "graduation" certificates from the museum.

Scholars disagree on the question of whether Cai Lun invented paper during the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 AD), but none will deny that he made a huge contribution to papermaking.

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The Paper Museum has recently begun to take advantage of the nimbleness that comes with its small size by dispatching traveling exhibits to other parts of Taiwan.

When a museum acquires a new item, the first thing to do is to categorize and make a record of it so as to avoid collecting too many duplicate pieces.

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