Rice-paper painting: Trivialities of the China trade
- M. E. Cobb
Rice paper is a soft velvety paper-like substance, long used in North America and Europe as a raw material for making very realistic artificial flowers. It has also been used for many years by Chinese artists as a surface for water .colors. In two respects rice paper was very inappropriately named. Rice plays no part either in its origin or in its manufacture. In the generally accepted sense that paper consists of matted fibrous matter rice paper is not a true paper. The product is prepared from the spongy pith of an Asiatic plant, Tetrapanax pa~pyriferum (Hook.) Koch. The origin of the name "rice paper" is unknown but it ,probably arose through the misunderstanding of early western explorers of the Orient; rice paper was believed by laymen to have been prepared from rice straw. Early botanists who examined the product were readily aware that it was not produced from a grass but could offer little more than an indication that it came from a dictoyledon. From time to time during the first part of the 19th century the paper was suspected of being derived from the breadfruit tree (Artoc~pus altilis [Parkins.] Fosberg) (4, 8) or from the "shola" (Aeschynomene aspera L.) (14, 27).