The Yen Thai paper village, also called Buoi Village, was located to the north west of Hanoi, just beside the big west lake. Take a half day bike tour to visit Yen Thai village.
Yen Thai village map
Paper making has started here since the 15th century, which was mentioned in “Du Dia Chi” written in 1435 by Nguyen Trai. Yen Thai guild in Thang Long specialized in producing different kinds of paper, such as edict paper (to write royal edicts) and order paper (to write orders from the King). In the past, Yen Thai guild resounded with the sound of rhamnoneuron-pounding pestle. This sound mentioned in folk songs has brought a source of inspiration for a lot of artists and poets for many centuries.
However, in order to produce such kind of paper, a few people can understand the hardship of paper makers.
The traditional production of poonah paper in Yen Thai, as well as in some other places, soon became specialized because the paper production had to go through different steps using rather complex techniques, and requiring experienced and skillful workers at every stage. It is right to say that every step in the production is very hard, from striping the skin of poonah to washing, pounding and refining it, then packing the paper and taking it to the market. In the past the paper production was made mainly manual. It requires a lot of clean water to produce paper and fire to burn the kiln for boiling paper pulp.
Once upon a time, in Yen Thai Village, To Lich river bank was chosen as a place for manufacturing, pounding, refining and boiling poonah. Big pots for boiling poonah paper were placed on soil kilns along the river bank. There is a deep well with pure water which was very famous in Thang Long capital. The arrangement and organization of paper-making place is very suitable. The kiln is 5 meters high, on which is a big pot with the diameter of 2 meters. The skin of poonah is boiled in bain-marie. When it is well-done, it will be picked up, soaked in lime water and pounded by hand.
The process of soaking paper pulp in the refining tank of Yen Thai Village is similar to that of other villages, which creates vicous water made from the resin of “mo” tree. It is a kind of fermenter to dissolve the poonah paper, produce paper and deal with the stickiness.
The traditional production of poonah paper in Yen Thai Village is mainly tissue paper used for printing books and writing Han scripts or printing folk paintings. Moreover, rice paper or alum paper is only used for packaging.