Hanji. I love hanji paper. If I could I would cover every boring piece of plywood that I encounter, every foul particle board piece of fast furniture, every rusting piece of wall in ugly little sikdangs, every boring notebook or binder.  I would cover the world in hanji.

Hanji is handmade paper. Or at least it should be. It is sometimes mass manufactured and sold as stationery. I love all the furniture that is made from hanji – shelves, drawers, lamps, tables. But I also love the diversity and artistry of handmade hanji. Popping in to Pagoda Hanji downtown, just north of the temple, on the way to Daein Market, is a feast. Different textures, colors, combinations with glitter threads, gingko leaves and wild flowers are all available to enjoy and purchase at reasonable costs.

In Jeonju, Jeollabukdo there is a museum devoted to the old hanji paper making techniques. Of course, Jeonju also boasts the largest and most successful paper manufacturer, but it is the quaint re-enactment of making your own hanji paper that makes a trip to this little museum one of the best souveniers of Korea that you can make for yourself. They have several other clever hanji pieces – coasters, key chains, cards, dolls that can also be purchased.

Locally here in Gwangju you can join art clubs, usually monthly at art hagwons or at the department stores, and make some hanji pieces yourself. Or just buy some kits online and play.

I recommend watching a really cool Korean movie to get the feel of the ancient art of hanji making. The movie Blood Rain is a murder mystery set in feudal Korea in a city of a hanji manufacturer. It is a stunning piece of historical drama with a fascinating combination of the occult, politics, and economics of life at that time.


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