story

Why did the inventions of paper change the world?

Since the invention of writing, people had been trying to come up with something to write on that was easy and cheap to make. Paper seems to have been invented around 100 BC in China.

During the Shang (1600–1050 BC) and Zhou (1050-256 BC) dynasties of ancient China, documents were ordinarily written on bone or bamboo (on tablets or on bamboo strips sewn and rolled together into scrolls), making them very heavy, awkward, and hard to transport. The light material of silk was sometimes used as a recording medium, but was normally too expensive to consider. The Han dynasty Chinese court official Cai Lun/Ts’ai Lun (ca. 50–121) is widely regarded as the inventor of the modern method of papermaking (inspired by wasps and bees) from rags and other plant fibers in 105. However, the discovery of specimens bearing written Chinese characters in 2006 at Fangmatan in north-east China's Gansu Province suggest that paper was in use by the ancient Chinese military more than 100 years before Cai, in 8 BC, and possibly much earlier as the map fragment found at the Fangmatan tomb site dates from the early 2nd century BC. It therefore would appear that "Cai Lun's contribution was to improve this skill systematically and scientifically, fix a recipe for papermaking".



Cai Lun/Ts’ai Lun was the first to start a paper-making industry. Ts’ai Lun seems to have made his paper by mixing finely chopped mulberry bark and hemp rags with water, mashing it flat, and then pressing out the water, and letting it dry in the sun.

Even after people in China began to use paper, it took another thousand years before people were using paper all over Eurasia. By the 400’s AD, people in India were also making paper. Paper gets its name from the Egyptain papyrus plant that was used to make paper-like sheets as early as 2300 BC.