Old Samarkand Paper Mill

The art of making paper, brought to Samarkand from China in the 7th century, had long been forgotton when it was revived with the assistance of UNESCO. Today the famous Samarkand paper is again made in the traditional way at a specially built traditional paper mill with a working wafer-wheel on the banks of the river Siab in the 'Konigil Meros' village on the outskirts of Samarkand (ten kilometers away from the centre of Samarkand, on the road leading to Bukhara), where it is possible by prior appointment to try making your own paper. Here, as many centuries ago, one can see with his own eyes the process of producing the famous Samarkand paper in accordance with the old recreated technology. For ages Samarkand was famous for its goods such as textile, carpets and paper. The first paper mill in Baghdad appeared only half a century after paper production was started in Samarkand. It should be noted that the Samarkand paper with its high quality forced out from the markets the various kinds of Egyptian paper and leather. Uzbek writer, thinker and scholar, Alisher Navoiy called paper "wings that spread around the thoughts of wise men". Paper was invented by the Chinese between the year 71 BC and 21 AD. Initially silk fiber was used to make paper: it was processed until being turned into uniform mass. Then this mass was filtered through a fine bamboo screen and once it got dry it formed a sheet of paper. This is the general principle of papermaking described in the first Chinese thesaurus. All further papermaking productions until recent times are based on this general principle. It was also possible to make paper from fresh bamboo sprouts, mulberry and willow barks, hemp, as well as from various rags and old fishing nets. Having placed the resource material into a stone container the Chinese mixed it with water into slurry. A form with netlike bottom made of thin bamboo sticks and silk threads was filled with slurry, then the form was shaken in all directions so that the fibers would get interwoven and would form a sheet of paper. When the water drained, the wet paper sheet was carefully removed, placed on a board and dried in the sun. A package of sheets was wrung out under a wooden press. Papermaking recipes were kept like important state secrets. But the so called industrial espionage existed already in ancient times. So, in 610 the papermaking secret was brought by Buddhist monks Donkho and Godzo to Korea and Japan. In 650 the soldiers who escaped Chinese captivity, where they had worked at paper "factories", started papermaking in Samarkand. Samarkand or Khurasan paper was made of old lint cloth and the production was quite successful, this paper even started to force out of the market other varieties of paper. White paper was usually made of bleached rags with supplement of raw starch. Colored paper was very much in demand. For example, dark blue paper - the color of sadness and sorrow - was used for writing death sentences; the red color signified happiness and humaneness, so appeals to compassion were written on paper of this color; paper dyed into yellow with saffron was especially honored and was used for writing decrees and special orders. And many-colored paper, quite like nowadays, was recommended for making various decorations.

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