Although precursors such introduction term paper papyrus and amate existed in the Mediterranean world and pre-Columbian Americas, respectively, these materials are not defined as true paper.
In contrast to paper, papyrus has an uneven surface that visibly retains the original structure of the ribbon-like strips that make it up. As the papyrus is worked, it tends to break apart along the seams, leading to long linear cracks and eventually falling apart. The word «paper» is etymologically derived from papyrus, Ancient Greek for the Cyperus papyrus plant. Papyrus is prepared by cutting off thin ribbon-like strips of the interior of the Cyperus papyrus, and then laying out the strips side-by-side to make a sheet. A second layer is then placed on top, with the strips running at right angle to the first. The two layers are the pounded together into a sheet. The result is very strong, but has an uneven surface, especially at the edges of the strips.
Paper contrasts with papyrus introduction term paper that the plant material is broken down through maceration or disintegration before the paper is pressed. This produces a much more even surface, and no natural weak direction in the material which falls apart over time. It is lucky chance that the date of CE 105 was recorded, because Cai Lun, the official involved, who seems to have introduced some improvements in paper manufacture, worked at the palace as a eunuch. Yet just because the new technology was not trumpeted at the time does not mean that it had no effect. Diamond Sutra of 868, shows the widespread availability and practicality of paper in China. Cai Lun’s» invention, recorded hundreds of years after it took place, is dated to 105 CE. In ancient times writings and inscriptions were generally made on tablets of bamboo or on pieces of silk called chih.
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But silk being costly and bamboos heavy they were not convenient to use. Tshai Lun then initiated the idea of making paper from the bark of trees, remnants of hemp, rags of cloth and fishing nets. Among the earliest known uses of paper was padding and wrapping delicate bronze mirrors according to archaeological evidence dating to the reign of Emperor Wu of Han from the 2nd century BCE. In the same period, it was written that tea was served from baskets with multi-colored paper cups and paper napkins of different size and shape. According to Timothy Hugh Barrett, paper played a pivotal role in early Chinese written culture, and a «strong reading culture seems to have developed quickly after its introduction, despite political fragmentation.
Indeed, the introduction of paper had immense consequences for the book world. Textual culture seems to have been more developed in the south by the early 5th century, with individuals owning collections of several thousand scrolls. In the north an entire palace collection might have been only a few thousand scrolls in total. The personal nature of texts was remarked upon by a late 6th century imperial librarian.
According to him, the possession of and familiarity with a few hundred scrolls was what it took to be socially accepted as an educated man. According to Endymion Wilkinson, one consequence of the rise of paper in China was that «it rapidly began to surpass the Mediterranean empires in book production. During the Tang dynasty, China became the world leader in book production. From the fourth century CE to about 1500, the biggest library collections in China were three to four times larger than the largest collections in Europe. However, despite the initial advantage afforded to China by the paper medium, by the 9th century its spread and development in the middle east had closed the gap between the two regions.
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