Mattia Marinolli is an Italian freelance photographer based in London. His passion for travelling took him around Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. His images tell stories about disappearing communities, dramatic events or daily street life.
This series focuses on the dissolving culture and practice of ancient papermaking. Papermaking is considered one of the four greatest inventions conceived in ancient China. Aside from the modern papermaking industry, it is still possible to find some villages in southwest China where paper is still being made using traditional ancient techniques.
Travelling among the villages in the Gaoligong Mountains, near the Myanmar’s border of West Yunnan, there is a small village called XinZhuang, where the art of papermaking has been kept alive by its inhabitants.
Fifty percent of the 680 households in XinZhuang make paper during the farming-off season. The paper is made from the bark of mulberry trees, usually producing sheets that are 68-cm-by-73-cm, a size suitable for tea packaging and funerary money.
It is difficult to preserve these ancient techniques during the age of such a rapidly growing economy. Similar handmade paper had been produced for centuries in other villages along the Yunnan Province, but large businesses and investors have since monopolized the paper sales.
Within the last decade, a group of friends from Beijing decided to invest money in a project for the construction of a museum to promote the preservation of the art of papermaking. An ambitious project, designed by Trace Architecture Office, was finally approved in 2011 after a long path through bureaucracy. The now Handcraft Museum of Printmaking was built by a group of local villagers, and stands beside the small village.
For more information about Mattia Marinolli please visit his website.