Korean Paper Crafts

Written by judy greenlees
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  • Introduction

    Korean Paper Crafts

    The essence of Korean paper crafts is the traditional handmade paper called "hanji." Made from the bark of mulberry trees, hanji is said to be strong and long-lasting. Covering the colourful and decorative paper with oil or lacquer helps to preserve it for many years. The beautiful, yet expensive, items crafted in the past were objects such as lanterns, window paper, fans and baskets. Modern craftsmen have embraced the paper for many new uses.

    Korean hanji lanterns. (Kevin Forest/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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    A Korean Tradition

    Koreans have learnt to use handmade paper in hundreds of ways. There are three types of mulberry trees growing in the country, and the paper, or hanji, made from each differs slightly, dependent upon the climatic region where it is grown. Hanji has been used for at least 1,600 years to make official documents, books, walls, furniture, armour, shrouds and even coffins. Its use and popularity is widespread.

    Mulberry tree bark is used to make hanji. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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    Korean dak paper dolls are built using electric wires as the skeleton. The body parts are made of paper. This type of paper sculpture can take quite some time to complete, depending upon the size of the dolls. Another interesting feature of these cultural dolls is that they are usually made in groups depicting scenes of everyday life. A museum featuring dak dolls is one attraction on the South Korean Jeju Island vacation destination .

    Cultural paper dolls. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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    Because of hanji's natural composition, the paper is known to last as long as 1,000 years. For this reason, official documents and books were traditionally made from it. Four historical Korean books have been included in the UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. This cultural focus on documentation is seen in the value that is placed on making fine handmade books, journals and diaries. Blank books of many kinds are part of Korean paper craft tradition.

    A Korean story book. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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    A favourite pastime for many Koreans is making decorated paper boxes. Some hobbyists build the boxes from the frame up, gluing colourful, designed paper to finish. Others simply enjoy using hanji to decorate pre-made paper boxes. Once the boxes are lacquered, they find many household uses and last for many years. Available in many shapes and sizes, these durable yet pretty containers are a visual reminder of the long heritage of Korean paper crafts.

    Decorative paper boxes. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

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