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Ancient Dongba Paper-making Techniques Revived in Yunnan
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Ancient Dongba paper-making has been making a revival in Lijiang in southwest China's Yunnan Province, a town inhabited predominantly by the Naxi ethnic group.

Skills for making the paper, on which has been recorded the world's only living pictograph, Naxi Dongba pictograph, have been dying out. He Shengwen, 53, the only expert remaining, owns a workshop to produce the legendary Dongba paper in Yunnan.

He said that around the period of Three Kingdoms (220AD -- 280AD), the skill of Dongba paper-making was introduced to Yunnan as Naxi people's ancestors settled in Lijiang.

Dongba paper is mainly used to record Dongba scriptures, the main means over generations of passing down Dongba pictograph, also known as a "living fossil of character."

"Although it is made with the original tools and crafts, Dongba paper has a high quality of being mothproof and resistant to natural erosion," He said.

However, during the so-called Cultural Revolution, many Dongba classics were burnt. Now there are more copies scattered abroad than kept at home.

Even though the Naxi pictograph is still used by older people, few of them know how to make Dongba paper.

The local government started to look for successors of the ancient paper-making skill in 1990. Finally, the Dongba Cultural Research Center found He Shengwen.

He immediately returned to his hometown, Kenpeigu Village, a main producing area of Dongba paper, where grows a special plant that is the main raw material of Dongba paper.

With the support of the local government and the teaching of his father-in-law, a master of the paper-making skill, He succeeded in making 23 pieces of paper in the first year of his experimentation.

Those finished products were sent to Lijiang and approved by experts and older Naxi people.

Traditionally, the process of Dongba paper-making involves several steps including boiling cortexes, rinsing, pestling and airing.

He has set up his own workshop and his products are mainly used for research by some institutions and for transcription of old Dongba scriptures.

His daughter, 22-year-old He Pizhen, has a good command of this skill now.

"I hope the ancient Naxi Dongba culture can be passed on," the girl said.

Apart from its unique hieroglyphs, the Naxi ethnic group is also famous for its ancient music.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization put Lijiang, home to most Naxi, on the World Cultural Heritage list in 1997.

(Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2002)

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