Small Korean Tea Table

Making new friends was the hardest part of moving to Seoul. It still is. I reluctantly joined hanji (한지) class to meet new people and learn a new skill. Honestly, I was never good at craft in school. I also thought that this was such a lame way to meet new people. Besides, it had little to do with my interest in science, writing, films, or even music. Fortunately, I met some incredible women from different parts of the globe and forged friendships that transcend distance and language. Somewhere along the way, I also began to truly enjoy the craft and enrolled in a hanji certificate program. I’ve attached a few of my level 2 projects above. Although, I quit hanji class this June, hanji will always have a special place in my heart. It was also the main reason for adding Jeonju to our trip itinerary. 

Getting There

The Jeonju Hanji Museum is located away from the main Hanok Village. We had booked our hotel next to the Express Bus Terminal and that made it easier for us to travel around. We barely had a day and half in Jeonju and that didn’t leave us with much time. We took a cab to the Jeonju Hanji Museum before exploring Deokjin Park. The Hanji Museum is located in a rather desolate neighbourhood and it might not be too easy to get a cab/bus back. Kakao Taxi and Naver Maps are useful apps to install on your phone when you’re travelling around Korea.

Registration

It’s important to register your name, where you’ve come from, and phone number before entering the Hanji Museum. I got many opportunities to practice my Korean on this trip. But, there are always some words that I don’t understand. Thankfully, the guards knew English and explained what we had to write. They were very polite and friendly. When we left the museum, I thanked them with a bow and I got a bow with a smile back. It felt good to feel welcome in Korea (even after 3 years) and I was happy to be a foreign tourist instead of an expat.

I’ve got a new craze for flowers that bloom in the Korean spring and summer seasons. These trailing ice plants grow everywhere in June.

Entrance

There are two buildings inside the premises and the Hanji Museum lies to the right. There’s a paper mill on the other side, but I don’t think visitors are allowed in there. The staff inside the Hanji Museum only speak Korean and they explained the sequence we should follow inside the museum. There were hardly any visitors inside the building on a Friday afternoon.

Exhibition Area

The first hall is at the end of the spiral staircase. It gives a general introduction of the history of paper around the world.

History of Paper

The History of Hanji

Korean Paper

The first hall leads into the History of Hanji Hall. A visitor can learn about the origin of Korean paper (Hanji) and its evolution through the ages.

Process of Making Hanji

The next few boards explain the process of making hanji — from extraction from the bark of the mulberry tree to producing thin long sheets of paper.

Kinds of Paper

Hanji paper can be found in a variety of patterns, thicknesses, and textures. Hanji paper also varies according to the region it is made in. Besides Jeonju Hanji, Korean paper produced in Wonju and Andong is recognised for its high quality. Hanji crafters choose papers according to their thickness, texture, and region-specific manufacturing style.

Applications

Hanji paper was used for writing buddhist scriptures, government documents, and ancient texts. The durability of the paper is its strongest trait.

Utilitarian Items

Hanji paper can be used to cover items and make furniture. The second section of the museum focuses on objects that can be made from hanji paper. Modern hanji uses ancient techniques to make objects that can be used today.

My earlier post on hanji explains the technique of making hanji crafts.

Special Exhibition Hall

This hall is an exhibition area for contemporary hanji. I was hoping to find more hanji craft rather than dolls.

Nature Zone

A passageway connects the upper halls to the experience centre on the lower floor.

Hanji Paper Experience

Making hanji paper from the bark of the mulberry tree can be quite a long and arduous process. The mulberry bark is dried in the sun and cut into strips.

The thin strips of white bark are steamed over a lye solution.

The white bark is then steamed in a solution of lye. The steaming process softens the fibres of the pulp.

The steamed white bark is then pressed on a stone to remove excess liquid. The mulberry bark is then washed with water before being mixed in a solution of water and a natural glue.

Making Paper

The highlight of a visit to the Jeonju Hanji Museum is the experience of making your own sheet of hanji paper.

I had to take a bamboo strainer and dip it into the solution of mulberry pulp and natural adhesive.

My teacher wasn’t impressed by how gentle I was with the bamboo strainer and dipped it once more in the solution.

Excess water has to be drained from the bamboo strainer.

He then showed me how to move the strainer to get the pulp to settle on the bamboo sheet. He wasn’t too impressed by how slow I was. Honestly, I wanted to take my time and enjoy the experience. It’s hard to explain why some experiences should be savoured. My instructor wouldn’t understand. He took the bamboo case from me and shook it fast. Possibly, the process had to be quick.

I finally got my pulp sheet on the bamboo strainer. My instructor told me to wash my hands and took over from this point. I was disappointed because I had to watch.

I missed the part where he heated the pulp and made it into a thin sheet.

The last step of the process is to place it on a hot metallic sheet and wait for it to dry.

The whole process was pretty quick. The sheet of paper was much smaller than the ones we buy from the hanji store in Seoul.

School kids were eagerly waiting to enter the museum. We took a cab to Deokjin Park before our Jeonju cultural heritage night tour.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Walkers. Wanderers. Travellers. Now in Seoul.

15 replies on “Making Korean Paper (한지) at Jeonju Hanji Museum

  1. Very impressed by what you have created. This must have been a fascinating tour. I’m sure you would love the series I mentioned before — Saimdang, Memoir of Colours — it has several episodes where the main character tries to make the best quality paper and collects mulberry branches.

    1. Thanks a bunch! It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve immersed myself completely into Korean traditional crafts and culture. We’re not sure how long we’ll be here. And these will be wonderful memories to take with us.

  2. Interesting. Craft is all about doing it with your hands. I’m sure every time you will use paper, it will remind you about this class.

  3. Such a fascinating and comprehensive post. i have made paper before and i really enjoyed it. I totally understand your wanting to savour the process…. How great that you were open to taking the class and that so many positive developments came out of that class. Love the photos of the bark and I always enjoy the calligraphy.

    Peta

    1. Thanks, Peta! 🙂 It was an incredible experience. It was totally worth it and I’m glad we added Jeonju to our list. I haven’t tried calligraphy and would like to learn it someday. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. It’s quite far from the Hanok Village. I think there are places where you can make paper at the village itself. My sonsangnim (teacher/instructor) was quite impatient. lol. But it was fun!

  4. I love paper and would enjoy both the class you took and this visit to to see (and try) papermaking. I especially like the rougher final products where you can really see the fibers although I’m sure they’re not as nice to write on. Too bad you felt rushed. Did they let you keep “your” paper?

    1. Hanji classes are offered at most global centres in Seoul. 🙂 The beginner level is free. In Jeonju, you can make paper at the Hanok Village (small fee) or at the museum (like I did). The course paper has a nice texture. I’ve used it for quite a few projects. 🙂 They let me keep the paper! Everything is always “palli, palli (quick)” in Korea. I’m always the slowest and last person anywhere. 🙂

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