Rice Paper

Fiber Used in Rice Paper

Cellulose fiber, the main ingredient of paper, is available in a number of different forms. Think the fact that how papermakers make decision about which plant to use for papermaking among thousands of fiber yielding ones. The criteria is the fiber length, whether the fiber can be easily harvested, and whether the plant grows in large quantities for needs. The fiber-yielding plants listed here are commonly used for papermaking in China, Korea and Japan.

Rice straw   Bamboo   Hemp   Mulberry   Wingceltis   Gampi

Rice straw

Size 2 - 4 ft. Blades Flat, ligule membranous, 6 - 18 in long on the lowermost leaves, panicle loose, drooping, 3/4 in across, spikelet with a terminal grain-producing floret. Florets Fertile, with two closely appressed sterile scales immediately below.

Botanical NameOryza sativa
Plant familyGraminae
Fiber length1 - 3.5 mm
Fiber typeGrass
Plant part usedStem
HarvestAfter the crop harvested
Paper colorWhite to cream
Used inChina, Japan, Korea, India

Rice has been grown intensively for more than 7,000 years. The crop may be harvested several times per year in some climates. After harvest papermakers cut the stems of rice straw into useable pieces and soak them in clear water for about a day prior to pulping.


Size 10 - 60 ft. Stem Woody, as much as 2 - 5 in in diameter, D-shaped in cross section, branching at all but the lower nodes, the lowermost nodes densely congested. Leaves Taper-pointed, dark green above, rather stiffish bristles beneath. Flowers Seldom flowering.

Botanical NamePhyllostachys aurea
Plant familyGraminae
Fiber length1 - 5 mm
Fiber typeGrass
Plant part usedStem
Paper colorVaries from yellow to cream
Used inChina

There are about 1,500 existing species of bamboo divided into about 80 different genera. Bamboo occurs naturally in most countries, including Africa, Pacific Islands and Australia. This most versatile woody plant is part of the everyday life and culture of most of Asia, yet the Western world remains relatively uninterested about it. This is partly because there are no bamboo species in any part of Europe and Middle East. The beauty of using bamboo for making paper is that you do not kill the source of your raw material if harvested in an intelligent way. Each year it will produce new culms, a constantly self-renewing resource. Bamboo is used for papermaking by many countries. India used to make 70 per cent of its paper from bamboo.


Size 3 - 6 ft. Leaves Coarsely toothed, to 10 in long. Flowers Small and blue.

Botanical NameCannabis sativa
Plant familyMoraceae
Fiber length25 mm
Fiber typeBast
Plant part usedStem
Paper colorOff-white
Used inChina, Japan, Korea

Still in use to make a strong rice paper today, hemp is an ancient moraceous herb cultivated since 2800 BC. The known earliest example of hemp paper can be dated to 200 BC. Hemp fiber was also the main ingredient of ancient Japanese paper.


Size 50 ft. Leaves Ovate to broadly ovate, to 8 in long and 6 in across, sometimes lobed, coarsely toothed. Flowers Males white, females green, borne in late spring to early summer. Fruit Red, protruding from a rounded cluster, 3/4 in across.

Botanical NameBroussonetia papyrifera
Plant familyMoraceae
Fiber length10 mm
Fiber typeBast
Plant part usedBranches
Paper colorwhite (inner bark)
Used inChina, Japan, Korea

Fiber of mulberry tree bark was first used for papermaking in the 2nd century. In late fall papermakers cut the tree branches to harvest the bark. This plant produce a semi-absorbent paper.


Size 30 - 45 ft. Leaves Dark green, heart-shaped, 2 - 4 in long and across, toothed, smooth. Flowers Small and yellow-green.

Botanical NamePteroceltis tatarinowii
Plant familyMoraceae
Fiber length5 mm
Fiber typeBast
Plant part usedBark
Paper colorWhite
Used inChina

Wingceltis is native to South China. Japanese tried to cultivate this plant in Japan, but the transplanted wingceltis only produced weak fiber. To make a fine paper rice straw is mixed with this fiber.


Size 6 ft. Leaves Ovate to elliptic, 4 1/2 in long and 2 1/2 in across, taper-pointed, toothed, dark green above, paler beneath, finely hairy on both sides. Flowers Yellow, fragrant.

Botanical NameWikstroemia retusa
Plant familyThymelaeaceae
Fiber length2 - 5 mm
Fiber typeBast
Plant part usedBranches
Season harvestedSpring
Paper colorCream (inner bark)
Used inJapan

Gampi is an indigenous shrub to deciduous forests of Japan. Its inner bark produces most lustrous paper in rice paper family. Because it is difficult to cultivate, only wild gampi is harvested. The use of gampi fiber began around Nara period, 710 - 793 AD. Today this paper is mostly used for artwork restoration.

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