Li Zhijun tramples the material for making paper at his workshop in the Tantou Town of Longhui County, central China's Hunan Province on Aug. 30, 2012.
Tantou Town is located in southwest Hunan Province, where bamboos grow in mountains. An ancient handmade papermaking skill has been inherited in Tantou since the Sui Dynasty (581-618), which made Tantou once a renowned papermaking center in central and south China.
In the mid-20th century, there were over 2,000 papermaking workshops in Tantou. Since the 1980s, affected by the mechanical papermaking technology, a large number of traditional handmade papermaking workshops went bankrupted. Many papermaking craftmen changed their career and the skill of handmade papermaking was on the verge of extinction.
One craftsman, Li Zhijun, did not give up.
Li is the inheritor of Tantou handmade papermaking skill, which is listed as an intangible cultural heritage. Handmade papermaking has been Li's family business for generations. When the skill was shrinking in Tantou Town in the 1980s, Li Zhijun did not quit papermaking like others.
Learned from his father Li Qiqiu, he carried on his family business and continued to produce handmade paper. Li Zhijun set up his workshop at the foot of a mountain, where he has been working with his father and wife for nearly 30 years.
For the softness and tightness, Li Zhijun's handmade paper became the first choice for producers making Tantou Spring Festival pictures, which are special local cultural artworks. The process of handmade papermaking is complicated and delicate.
Using bamboos, Li Zhijun has to soak, trample, boil, wash, dry, forge, refine and bake the materials. The soaking takes over 40 days while the whole process may took half a year. At the end of May every year, Li Zhijun and his wife cut bamboos in the mountain for stock. When the manufacturing season comes, 76-year-old Li Qiuqiu discloses every single piece of paper from the drained pile and sticks them on the wall for baking. During the busy time, Li Zhijun hires a few villagers.
"The helpers are all senior residents these days," said Li Zhijun, "Young people do not know how to make paper by hand." Li Zhijun hopes the young people could pay more attention to handmade papermaking, so that the skills may be carried on. (Xinhua/Li Ga)