The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The cultural heritage | The 13 traditional crafts | Papermaking

Dezo: Papermaking

The production of handmade paper was most likely introduced from Tibet. Whether paper was originally made by monks only, to record holy scriptures, or whether it was also made by lay craftspeople is uncertain; today it is certainly made by both.

 

In Bhutan paper is mainly made from the Daphne bush. The other major ingredient is a gum obtained from the root of a creeper. The bark is stripped off a suitable plant and soaked in water to wash off the outer layer of residue and dirt. It is then left in the sun to dry. Using a knife, the outer layer of bark is peeled off, leaving bare the inner, softer portion, which is again soaked in water and cleaned. The wet fibres are treaded on until they turn into a fibrous mass, over which an ash-water mixture is poured through a sieve. The mixture is then heated up and boiled for a few hours. Finally, the softened fibres are beaten and then churned into a pulp. The mixture is now ready to be poured over a screen and placed on the mountain slopes in the sun. Once dry, the fibre becomes a thin sheet of translucent paper, which can be peeled off the screen.

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Paper is traditionally made from the bark of the Daphne bush. The single sheets of paper are left on bamboo frames to dry in the sun. The outstanding feature of this paper is its durability.
Photo by Jon Warren