After hearing about the small Chinese village of Shiqiao, famous for its traditional papermaking, blogger Fiona Reilly traveled to the quiet town to see it firsthand. What she didn’t expect was the surreal experience of witnessing the process of this traditional handcraft within the confines of a cave.
After reaching and exploring Shiqiao, Fiona describes the approach to the cave with visceral detail:
“After twenty minutes on treacherous single lane winding roads the car stopped at the mouth of a huge limestone cave, some distance off the main road. There was a dirt track of sorts leading down to it, full of deep potholes and thick brown mud that stuck to our shoes as we walked, and I still wasn’t quite sure what we were coming to see, perhaps a bat colony inside the cave, or a small waterfall. It was only once we got closer that I could make out the striped red white and blue awning covering some kind of workshop.”
Photo by Fionna Reilly
What she found was a small papermaking workshop, run by a handful of hard working villagers. With so many basins filled with water and tubs of paper pulp packed into the space, Fiona wondered the obvious question: why a cave? One papermaker responded that they were all from the nearby village and simply wanted to set up their own business. The cave was a good water source and provided protection from the weather.
Though the winters are presumably harsh working in a cold, damp and dark cave, the workers set their own hours and find it a better option than plowing the fields. Fiona added,”It still seemed like very difficult conditions…but like many who rely on the land for a living, any regular money-making work that supplements the uncertain income from farming is welcome, even if it involves eight wet hours of work in a cave.”
Read the rest of the story and see more pictures on Fiona’s blog, Life on Nanchan Lu.