Xuan Paper Buyer Guide

Guide to Xuan paper types & sizes: Perfect Xuan for professionals has up to 85% tree bark. Also available special Landscape, Calligraphy, practice papers and >40 decorative papers. For more general information see also Chinese Xuan paper introductionthe making of Xuan paper and the decorative paper selection.

Guide

  1. Painting purpose:
    • Perfect quality Xuan paper is the preferred choice for professional and exhibition use for most types of calligraphy and Chinese brush painting. This paper is equivalent grade to Red Star paper, but is cheaper since it comes unbranded from the village workshops.  [If you see cheaper anywhere else, check the size, some shops seem to be cutting the paper in order to sell smaller sizes.]
    • Expert and Extra Fine ranges are also high-end papers and include special papers formulated for different art types.
  2. Quality level:
    • Perfect:  is our top quality range, made with finest grade materials, it is distinctive for using the purest level of quality 青檀 Qing Tan (Pteroceltis Tatarinowii) tree bark (available as 85%, 80% and 70% bark).  It takes 2 years to prepare the raw materials (or 3 in the case of Perfect 85) and 7 days to make the paper.
    • Extra Fine: is also made with quality materials and additional care spent on the production process and is available in a range of mixes from 33% to 75%  Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree bark.
  3. Finish:
    • Sizing:  “raw” or “unsized” paper is generally preferred for most Chinese art purposes.  GongBi detailed painting should use cooked (sized) paper. The half-sized Xuan Paper is suitable for all types of calligraphy and painting. The half-sized Xuan Paper has lower absorption rate than raw Xuan paper, as a result of this, it is easier to control than raw papers.
    • Colour:  raw, not coloured (with exception of Extra Fine 45 Light Yellow which is made to look aged by the addition of walnut skin)
    • Additional colours and sizing options can be made available on request, see the Chinese Xuan paper introduction.
  4. Size:  Xuan paper is made in large sizes (please take these as approximate handmade papers are also hand-trimmed):
    • 138*70cm “Plus size (54.33×27.56inches, 0.966㎡, 1 sheet equivalent to 15 sheets A4 paper).  [Red Star versions are labelled 138x69cm.]
      This is the most common size in stock and the largest which is made on a single person frame.
    • 138*35cm Half Plus-size for more convenient shipping.
      We can send packs of 25 sheets half-size in standard parcel post, whereas the other sizes are oversize/overweight shipping.
    • 180x97cm Super size (70.87×38.19 inches, 1.746㎡, 1 sheet is 1.75xA0, equivalent to 28 sheets of A4)
      This is a super-large size which is more difficult to make and not often kept in stock.
    • 100*50cm Standard size  (39.37×19.68inches, 0.5㎡,  1 sheet has surface equivalent to 8 sheets of A4 size or 1 sheet A0 – same surface area, different shape)
    • 38x38cm (15inch) square Shikishi card pre-mounted paper.  Also available pre-mounted square/circular/shaped pieces known from the Japanese name Shikishi.
  5. Weight:  please note this paper is not machine made, weights are indicative and individual sheets might vary since they are made by hand.  We have calculated an approximate gsm (grams per square meter) which is typically 30-40gsm for standard single Xuan paper, and double this for double Xuan.  For comparison common household printer paper is around 80gsm.
  6. Package:  we are currently shipping full packs of 100 sheets or 50 sheets full-size, and a special pack of 25 sheets half-size which is more economic to post.  We also have sets of 10+1 full size sheets in decorative cylindrical tubes (1 pack contains 10 sheets plus 1 gift sheet):  this is an attractive sturdy tube that can also be used to send finished paintings.
paper roll
10-11 sheets packed in decorative tube

Xuan Paper Classificiation According to Recipe

For professional Xuan paper making, we have two major classification for Xuan papers according to the percentage of the Pteroceltis Tatarinowii bark.

  • 净皮Jing Pi xuan paper:  This category refers to professional handmade Xuan papers which contain at least 60% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii bark. Both of these two types of Xuan papers are professional grade Xuan papers. They are professional Xuan paper for calligraphy and sumi e/ Chinese paintings.
    特种净皮 Te Zhong Jing Pi: 80% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii Tree Barks, 20% rice straw. It is the highest grade professional Xuan paper.
      –净皮 Jing Pi: 60% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii Tree Barks, 40% rice straw.

  • 棉料 Mian Liao Xuan paper refers to the type of Xuan paper which contains 30% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree barks and 70% rice straw, or 40% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree barks and 60% rice straw. Such type of paper is suitable for normal calligraphy and painting purposes.

Perfect Range

Perfect Range is the top quality highest grade Xuan paper and the preferred choice for professional and exhibition use for most types of calligraphy and Chinese brush painting. Perfect is distinctive for using the purest level of quality Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree bark.

This paper is equivalent grade to Red Star paper, but is cheaper since it comes unbranded from the village workshops.  If you see cheaper anywhere else, check the size, lower price may be smaller size. Our Perfect Xuan is all in the larger 138x70cm Plus size, we can also ship half-size which is more convenient for shipping. There are three different grades:

  • Perfect 85   85% bark, 37gsm.   This is the top of the range professional art paper.
  • Perfect 80   80% bark, 37gsm
  • Perfect 70   70% bark, 39gsm

The Perfect 85 paper is made with tree bark which is all naturally sun-bleached, whereas other papers are repeatedly steamed/boiled and dried to reduce the time and cost of the production process.
Here you can see the comparison between the Perfect range and the Red Star TeZhong JingPi paper:

Xuan Paper for Students

Perfect Xuan and many of the other special varieties here are extremely absorbent and thin and are best used when you have already learned some of the techniques and are able to control the flow of ink. Depending on your style and your teacher’s recommendation, you may like to try double Xuan which is twice the thickness, sized or semi-sized Shu/BanShu Xuan or cheaper machine-made practice paper.

Double Xuan

Double Xuan is double thickness Xuan paper, it is literally twice the thickness and weight of standard single Xuan.
This means it can hold more moisture so it is popular for watercolour painters and often recommended for students as more forgiving than single Xuan when learning to control the flow of ink.

Landscape paper

Especially formulated for Landscape painting with 65-75% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree bark, available in Extra Fine Landscape and Expert Landscape grades both in the larger Plus size (38-39gsm).

Calligraphy paper

Expert Calligraphy is a Plus sized 65 – 75% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree bark which is especially made to have the effect of “half-cooked” Xuan paper though no Sizing is applied (39gsm).  Also, the half-sized Gold Fleck Xuan Paper has very good effects for calligraphy.

Flower/Bird paper

Specially made for Flower, Animal (including bird) paintings with 33 – 38% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree bark, rice stalks and a tiny portion of calcium added into the pulp. Available in Extra Fine Flower/ Bird (37gsm) and Expert Flower/ Bird (40gsm) grades.

6575 Xuan paper

65 – 75% Pteroceltis Tatarinowii Tree Bark available in Extra Fine 6575 and Extra Fine 6575 Plus sizes.

“Sized” Xuan papers

熟宣 Shu Xuan sized or cooked Xuan paper

The plain sized Xuan Paper and the Mica Shimmer Xuan Paper are sized and suitable for painting styles such as Gongbi detail painting which require less absorbent paper.

These sized papers are made with Eulaliopsis binata called in Chinese 龙须草 “Dragon beard grass”  also known as Chinese alpine rush. They are deliberately not as absorbent as the tree bark paper to facilitate different styles of painting.

半熟宣 Ban-Shu Xuan Half-Sized Xuan paper

The half-sized or half-cooked Xuan paper is deliberately less absorbent than raw unsized Xuan paper, while remaining more absorbent that the cooked Xuan, so it is flexible for different styles of painting.

Gold Fleck Xuan Paper is suitable for all types of calligraphy and painting.  This half-sized Xuan Paper is decorated with gold flecks.  It is made from grasses/rushes also used in Chinese medicine.

Decorative Xuan papers

Selection of papers mounted on card

In addition to the Gold Fleck Xuan paper, we can also supply papers decorated with embedded long grass fibres or leaves, or coloured papers such as red and gold.  There are also 27 types of papers with different decorative designs. if you can’t see what you want listed yet on the website, please Contact Us.

Gongbi/Shikishi card paper

A range of Xuan papers mounted on card as featured in “How to paint Gongbi style: Lotus Out of Water“.  These include gold and white papers, cut into square, circle or traditional fan shape and mounted onto 38x38cm card.

Raw Xuan Rice Paper

A range of papers with >50% rice straw and different levels of Pteroceltis Tatarinowii tree bark.

Practice Xuan Paper

We also have one Machine-made Xuan Paper for Practice which is sold in sets of 20 complete 35cm * 138cm sheets. This is effectively Plus size paper cut lengthways to two long strips, suitable for calligraphy practice.  There is also a full size Red Star practice paper.

Xuan Paper Comparison table

Xuan Paper Name Type Recommendation % Pteroceltis Tatarinowii Tree bark Net Weight/ Sheet Size/ Sheet
Perfect 85 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 85% 35.4g/sheet 37gsm 138x70cm
Perfect 80 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 80% 35.4g/sheet 37gsm 138x70cm
Perfect 70 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 70% 37.7g/sheet 39gsm 138x70cm
Double Xuan Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 38-45% 77g/sheet 90gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine Double Xuan Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 65-75% 87g/sheet 80gsm 138x70cm
Mica Shimmer Plus Mica Sized Gongbi Detail Painting. 0% 29.9g/sheet 30gsm 138x70cm
Gongbi Plus Sized Gongbi detail painting. 0% 29.65g/sheet 31gsm 138x70cm
Gold Fleck Plus Half-Sized Flexible use 0% 31.3g/sheet 32gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine Landscape Raw Landscape painting 65-75% 36.5g/sheet 38-39gsm 138x70cm
Expert Landscape Raw Landscape painting. 65-75% 37.4g/sheet 38-39gsm 138x70cm
Expert Calligraphy Raw half-cooked effect Calligraphy. 65-75% 37.5g/sheet 39gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine 6575 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 65 – 75% 38.3g/sheet 40gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine 6575 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 65 – 75% 23.4g/sheet 47gsm 100x50cm
Extra Fine 45
(light yellow)
Raw Calligraphy; Painting. walnut coloured 65 – 70% 38.4g/sheet 40gsm 138x70cm
Expert 45 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 45% 37.6g/sheet 39gsm 138x70cm
Expert 40 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 40% 37.5g/sheet 39gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine Flower/ Bird Raw Flower, Animal, Bird paintings. 33–38% 36.2g/sheet 37gsm 138x70cm
Expert Flower/ Bird Raw Flower, Animal, Bird paintings. 33-38%
added calcium
39.1g/sheet 40gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine 3338 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 33–38% 36.6g/sheet 38gsm 138x70cm
Extra Fine 3338 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 33–38% 20.8g/sheet 42gsm 100x50cm
Expert 3338 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 33-38% 36.6g/sheet 38gsm 138x70cm
3338 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 33-38% 43.8g/sheet 45gsm 138x70cm
3338 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 33-38% 17.2g/sheet 34gsm 100x50cm
1603 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 16% 43g/sheet, 44-5gsm 138x70cm
1603 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 16% 23.9g/sheet 48gsm 100x50cm
Thin 0809 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 8%-9.8% 32.7g 34gsm 138x70cm
0809 Plus Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 8%-9.8% 39g/sheet 40gsm 138x70cm
0809 Raw Calligraphy; Painting. 8%-9.8% 19.3g/sheet 39gsm 100x50cm

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