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Papers imported from China were also much in vogue. Because they came from China, they were known as karakami or “paper from Cathay”. Karakami paper is made by first coating the paper with shell white (gubiki) and then printing designs on it with carved woodblocks using a shiny translucent mixture of mica and nikawa glue. The characteristic of the paper is that the printed patterns sparkle and seem to float on the page. This kind of paper was widely used in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279). At first, it was imported to Japan but over time Japanese papermakers began to produce their own. Karakami made in Japan is sometimes called wasei karakami, or, “Japan-made Chinese paper”.
The blue paper you see here and the white paper and this one, too, are examples of karakami made in the 11th and 12th centuries, during the Heian period. These are all fragments cut from larger books. The Heian period was indeed a time of great popularity for this kind of paper. Because it is so expensive to make, it was used much less often during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (ca. 1200-1570, a time of social unrest and frequent conflict). This example here is a 13th century (early-Kamakura) Buddhist text. The title area is made of karakami decorated with sparkling paint.
As we saw earlier, Heian decorative styles became popular again in the Edo period, a time of peace and stability after centuries of strife. Here we have four examples of books made with karakami dating from this period. In this scroll here, the paper was first colored with gubiki (shell white coating) and then decorated with patterns by applying mica paint with wooden blocks in this example, too, the patterns are different on every page. This book here is also made with karakami, and this one too has the karakami patterns on it. These heavily decorated books were extremely popular in the 17th century.






books on the table


日本の古書がいかに中国や朝鮮半島の影響を受けているか、さらに興味をもったら、慶應義塾大学が提供する他のコース「古書から読み解く日本の文化: 漢籍の受容(Sino-Japanese Interaction Through Rare Books)」も受講してみてください。

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古書から読み解く日本の文化: 和本を彩る和紙の世界

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