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Jute paper from Western Han Dynasty discovered in Dunhuang           



Jute paper from Western Han Dynasty discovered in Dunhuang
August 15, 2006
A small, ragged piece of jute paper with Chinese characters written on it has been discovered in Dunhuang in Gansu Province, in northwest China. It is believed it was produced during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC--220 AD), 113 years earlier than Marquis Cai's paper appeared. Marquis Cai Lun (50-121 AD), a high-ranking official who lived during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) has until this point been credited with the invention of paper. 
  The scrap of paper was found several years ago in some ancient ruins. It is a tawny-colored, irregular fragment of jute paper about 10 centimeters wide and long, on which there are over 20 clearly written Chinese characters. Some archaeologists believe this is part of a letter. The Chinese characters look similar to those on bamboo slips which were also written during the Western Han Dynasty and found with the paper. According to the date written on the bamboo slips, paper appeared during the last period of Emperor Cheng in the Western Han Dynasty (namely, the year 8 BC). This is 113 years earlier than Marquis Cai's paper which was manufactured during the reign of Emperor He from Eastern Han Dynasty (specifically in 105 BC). 
  As early as the 1980s Chinese archaeologists discovered a lot of relatively large shreds of jute paper in good condition among the debris of watchtowers in Gansu Province, said Fu Licheng, curator of the Dunhuang Museum.   
  According to the chronicle written on the bamboo slips found with the jute paper, it was produced during the period of Emperor Xuan (73--49 BC) during Western Han Dynasty and is 170 years older than Marquis Cai's paper. However many experts dismissed the argument that these scraps were the earliest used pieces of paper as there were no Chinese characters on them. 
Source:  People's Daily Online


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