Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Hearts of Literary Men

Dard Hunter:
Legend has it that Emperor Wu (A.D. 1368-98 ) tried to procure a suitable paper for the printing of money and to this end consulted with the wise men of his realm for advice. One of the learned group suggested that counterfeiting could only be prevented by mixing the macerated hearts of great literary men with the mulberry-bark pulp. The Emperor is said to have taken this suggestion under advisement, but at length he decided it would be a grave mistake to destroy the literary men of China simply for the purpose of using their hearts as ingredients for paper. In talking over the problem with the Empress she suggested that the same result could be achieved without interfering with the lives of their scholarly subjects. The Empress brought forth the thought that the heart of any true literary man was actually in his writings. Therefore, the wise Empress asked the Emperor to have collected the papers upon which the great Chinese authors and poets had set down their writings. The manuscripts were duly macerated and added to the mulberry bark and it was thought that the dark grey tone of the money papers was due to the black ink used in the calligraphy upon the paper.

Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft

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