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