Who Invented Paper?


Quick Answer

Ts'ai Lun of China is widely credited with the invention of paper. Recently discovered archaeological evidence, however, suggests that paper had already been in existence in China for up to two centuries before Lun made his declaration.

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Ts'ai Lun, who was a member of the Imperial Court of the ruling dynasty of China, proclaimed that he had invented paper in 105 A.D. Archaeological discoveries elsewhere in China place the invention of paper as early as 140 B.C.

The earliest Chinese paper was made from a hemp waste and water mixture that was washed and then pressed into a cloth sieve before being left out to dry. As papermaking advanced, new base materials were introduced in addition to hemp waste. Advancements in papermaking made it possible for the paper to dry faster, which increased productivity. Additional improvements were also made in sizing and texturing methods.

As the Chinese perfected the papermaking craft, they began to share it throughout Asia. Once papermaking spread to the Middle East, Europeans began importing it. It was at least another century before people in Southern Europe began learning to make paper for themselves, as paper was initially viewed as an element of Muslim culture.

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