How to make paper - Ancient China Project
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How to make paper - Ancient China Project

Chinese paper money
Chinese paper money

This is a good sit-down project for a sunny day.

Factories in China made paper out of cloth rags and mulberry bark (more on Chinese paper), but it will be easier to make paper out of other paper.

Begin by getting a sheet of newspaper, and let them cut or tear it into small pieces, about 1/2 inch square. Then soak the pieces in water, until they are very squishy. Stir them around so they totally disintegrate into sludge. You can make the paper different colors by adding a drop of food coloring to the water.

Now, take window-screens (or small pieces of window-screen) and dip them into the newspaper sludge until they are covered, and carefully lift them back out again. Set the screens in the sun until the paper is dry, and then you should be able to peel it off the screen.

That's basically all there is to making paper. You may want to discuss whether this is how paper is made today, and how the modern process is the same or different (can they find out using the Internet?). It would be interesting to calculate the area of the newspaper sheet they each started with, and the area of the paper they made with it - which is bigger? Why? Is there any difference in the weight?

You might also investigate whether pens will write well on their paper, and try adding things to the water to make the paper easier to write on. One common additive is powdered chalk.

Another paper-making project

Other activities:


* Paper-making
* Making papyrus
* Making a compass
* Discussion of foot-binding

Bibliography and further reading about the history of paper:

History of Paper
More China projects
More about ancient China
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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