I use Chinese rice paper exclusively in my work. But is rice paper really made of rice?
It is a simple question with a complicated answer. In fact, to make it even more confusing, rice paper is called “Xuan” paper in Chinese and it is not made of rice.
After some research, asked around, and compare notes, apparently there are many types of rice paper and they can also be made with mulberry tree and bamboo. But the best Xuan paper is from Anhui’s Jing County in China where they use the fibers from the Qintan tree bark or Pteroceltis tatarinowii, a common species of elm in that area.
Mulberry and qintan tree barks grow back again and again, while bamboo is a sustainable/renewable source.
The rice/Xuan paper made in China is not machine-pressed but hand-made. The hand-made process is sustainable. Because I use rice paper so much, it is great that both the material and process used are eco-friendly.
Top quality rice paper enjoys longevity and is beautifully uniformed in texture, color, and thickness (thinness really). The translucency and absorbency are also very consistent. It is soft yet substantial to the touch, never powdery or flimsy.
I am still researching this and will post more when there’s new information.