The Timeless Beauty of K-Paper in Jordan: Hanji

The Timeless Beauty of K-Paper in Jordan Hanji
(Photos: South Korean Embassy in Jordan)
With the fast-paced spread of Korean culture worldwide, the enchanting beauty of Korean traditions has been gracefully unfolding in Jordan. Korean culture and traditions have successfully sparked a profound interest in many Jordanians of all age groups and backgrounds. As a part of Korea’s public diplomatic plan, the South Korean Embassy in Jordan has been committed to preserving and promoting its cultural heritage through many events in Jordan. The embassy started off 2024 by hosting an immersive workshop introducing “The Beauty of K-Paper in Jordan: Hanji,” featuring the Korean artist Gong Hea Min, which took place on February 22. An official from the Korean Embassy said, “This event is significant in that it promotes the excellence and usability of Korea’s traditional Korean paper in Jordan, where Hanji is unfamiliar.” Korea has an outstanding paper-making technology called Hanji (Korean Paper). Hanji is known for its durability and being one of the reasons for the development of the Korean nation, as it held in its textures the history of all the kings of the Joseon Dynasty.اضافة اعلان

What is Hanji?
Hanji is a soft-textured yet solid traditional handmade paper that is primarily made of the inner bark of the mulberry tree mixed with water and the root of hibiscus. The term 'Hanji' has various background stories. However, many think that it was derived from the Korean words “Han,” which means (Korea) and “Ji,” which means (Paper) which translates to Korean Paper. In ancient Korea, there was a need to come up with such material for various reasons, the Spouse of South Korean Ambassador to Jordan Jiwun Suh told Jordan News, “Hanji is one of the reasons for the development of Korea’s recording culture,” she also added that “the Great Dharani Sutra, Buddhist sculptures, the world’s oldest woodblocks print was made with Hanji.” Although the Korean paper was a valuable tool for recording, it is also deeply immersed in Korean architecture. Jiwun Suh added, "Hanji was not just used for recording, but it was also used to make doors and windows of a Hanok (a traditional Korean house), and recently it has been used as a material for artistic works.”

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Koreans are known for proudly holding onto their traditions, and what distinguishes Hanji from other paper types is its durability; “Hanji is excellent in durability, and due to Hanji’s excellent durability to be preserved for a long period of time, museums in Italy and France have recently used it for restoring cultural heritages,” Jiwun Suh added.

The traditional method of making Hanji was passed down through generations and is still being made and introduced to many artists. Nowadays, many exhibitions present Hanji as one of Korea’s treasures, embodying the beauty and creativity of its traditional culture.

Making Hanji is a challenging task; the bark of the mulberry tree is harvested, cleaned, and then soaked in water to soften it. Once softened, the fibers are beaten and mixed with water, creating a paste that is then spread and pressed to form thin sheets. After that, the sheets are left to dry under the sun, creating a strong, flexible, long-lasting paper with a unique, vibrant texture. Making Hanji is a relaxing process. Artist Gong Hea Min told Jordan News, “Hanji works are good in themselves, but there is also a peace of mind and a meditative experience that comes from working with Hanji myself.”

Historical Brief
Hanji dates back to over 1,000 years, making it a key component of Korea’s heritage. Hanji is also well known for being gentle on the human body due to its eco-friendly nature, as it is made from natural materials free from any harmful chemicals found in the production of any modern paper.

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In ancient times, Hanji gained popularity as it made its way to Japan and the West, ultimately achieving global success. It is said that the Emperor of China’s Tang Dynasty “Valued Hanji and considered it equal to the finest silk.” Hanji also played a crucial role in various traditional ceremonies and rituals.

Hanji was used in so many areas; some of the most unique uses were by the Army of the Joseon Dynasty, as they wore many layers of Hanji as armor. The unique texture of Hanji prevented the arrows from piercing through the fabric, which served as a safety technique for Korean soldiers. “Hanji was used as a material for armor due to its characteristics of its excellent durability and hardness,” Jiwun Suh added.

“Hanji is known for its durability and being one of the reasons for the development of the Korean nation, as it held in its textures the history of all the kings of the Joseon Dynasty.”

Many ancient oriental medicine books mentioned the use of Hanji in making medicine. One of the most fascinating techniques that people used was to drink the ashes of burned Hanji mixed with water, which was used to stop a person from bleeding.

Recently, numerous ongoing initiatives have been to preserve and promote the production of Hanji. Koreans, artists, and organizations collectively work to pass down the techniques and skills essential for creating Hanji through all generations. Various workshops, exhibitions, and programs are organized to ensure that Hanji is still present in our modern world.

An Enchanting Workshop Experience
The South Korean Embassy in Jordan held a workshop at the Ambassador’s Residence to introduce Hanji and allow participants to get in touch with its textures and create some of their own crafts.

Participants of various nationalities went through an exciting journey as they watched a presentation that delved into the process of making Hanji and its significance in Korean culture. This was followed by an engaging performance by Artist Gong Hea Min, who introduced Hanji and demonstrated how Hanji crafts are made, later, participants started to create their own colorful pieces. This experience allowed participants to include their touch in the Korean fabric directly. It was fun to see how various art pieces were made, which expressed the shared appreciation of participants of different cultural backgrounds. A participant told Jordan News, “It was a great activity; it was well organized and lively, and participants were able to show their creative side.”

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Jiwun Suh told Jordan News, “This is the first Hanji craft workshop held in Jordan, and I believe it can serve as an opportunity to lead various cultural experiences and exhibition events on Hanji in the future.” and “I expect that this event will serve as an opportunity to increase the understanding of Korean culture by sharing knowledge and information on Hanji in Jordan.”

Hanji comes in various forms, colors, and uses, and it is rather considered a new concept to Jordanians and other cultures. While crafting Hanji, one can always demonstrate creativity in the art pieces.

“As a person who loves Hanji and Hanji craft, I hope it would be a good opportunity for Jordanians to experience Korean art and culture by sharing the beauty and excellence of Hanji with Jordanians,” said Artist Gong Hea Min.

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The workshop allowed its participants to understand the history, tradition, and characteristics of Hanji. At the end of the experience, the participants did not only gain a profound understanding of Hanji but also mastered basic Hanji-making skills and produced their own Hanji works.

The workshop served as a bridge between cultures, supporting a deeper understanding and appreciation for the artistic legacy of the Korean nation. Jiwun Suh added, “I believe that Jordanian people within the artistic circle will be able to expand cultural exchange between the two countries by becoming aware of the possibility of using Hanji as a material for various artworks.”