China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper focuses on the large-scale circulation and distribution of paper between different regions under Mongol rule and the succeeding dynasties from the 1300s to the 1500s. Based on Persian and Chinese primary sources and material-oriented studies, four types of paper, made in different places, will be investigated: Chinese paper, Korean paper, Baghdadi paper, and Samarqandi paper. The production and circulation of paper brought technical and aesthetic shifts in local artistic practice in the East and West Asia. In China, the extensive use of paper as painting ground coincided with the rise of literati painting; in the Islamic world, Baghdad and Samarqand became centers of paper production. Illustrated manuscripts, made of local and foreign paper, began to appear in greater number in monumental formats. Paper was on the move on a continental scale: the so-called Muslim paper (huihui zhi), introduced to China together with Islamic astronomy, was used in the annual making of the huihui li (or Muslim calendar) for the Yuan court. Chinese paper, especially gold-decorated paper with hand-painted images, transmitted through diplomatic contacts to Central Asia and Iran, was lavishly used in Persian manuscript production and decree writing. Korean paper, sought after by the Yuan and Ming courts and frequently used in painting practice by the literati, was also brought to Iran as writing material for diplomatic occasions. Locating itself in the “material turn” in historical research, this preliminary study sheds lights on the networks of paper circulation in pre-modern Eurasia.