Timeline of Tetrapanax papyriferum
The earliest mention of the use of pith paper is thought to be during the Tsin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.). In the official records in the year of Jiann Kang "Jiann Kang Shyr Luh", it is mentioned that the emperor ordered servants to arrange flowers made from "Tung-tsaou".
Image of Rice Paper plant is published in 1590 in the Pen ts'ao kang mu (Chinese Materia Medica) by Shizhen Li.
Pith papermaking discussed in T'ien Kung K'ai Wu, a guide to Chinese technology in the 17th century.
Rice paper plant first mentioned in Western literature in Georg Eberhard Rumpf's Herbarium Amboinenes under the name Buglossum litoreum.
The first examples of "rice-paper" were brought to England in 1805 from China by a Dr. Livingstone.
Pith paper paintings begin to be produced in Southern China, more than likely for the tourist trade.
General Hardwicke identifies the "rice-paper" plant as Aeschynomene paludosa in Botanical Miscellany v.1, 1830.
George Bennett, in his Wanderings in New South Wales (1834) publishes the first picture of the "rice paper" plant available to the western world. [Image can be seen on the main exhibit page]
Sir William Jackson Hooker receives the first samples of pith paper, a model of the knife used in cutting the plant, and a series of paintings detailing the plant and the production of the rice paper.
Berthold Seeman, during the voyage of the H.M.S. Herald , collected a specimen of the rice paper plant that he believed belonged to the family Malvaceae.
Hooker receives first living specimens of the plant and comes to the conclusion that the "rice paper" plant is part of the Araliaceous family and so re-names it Aralia Papyrifera, Hook.
Hooker receives a flowering specimen from J. W. Bowring esq., Hong Kong, and is able to prepare a complete description for Curtis's Botanical Magazine
Mid to late 1850s
With increased European interest, the market for pith paper and its product greatly expands.
German botanist Karl Koch, in Wochenschrift fur Gartnerei und Pflanzenkunde recharacterizes the plant as a Didymopanax, subgenus Tetrapanax.
Over 144,000 lbs of rice paper are exported from Taiwan, and 2,000-3,000 people are employed in the rice paper artificial flower industry in Canton, China, and Hong Kong alone.
The European demand for rice paper paintings dies out.
Back to Main Page