The Paper-Making Craft of the Mong Ethnic Group

For years, the Mong ethnic group has been known for the craft of making paper, which are not used for printing books or writing, but for spiritual and religious activities. The paper serves as an offering, showing the gratitude of the Mong people to their ancestors.

The Mong people believe that when they use the paper made by themselves to decorate the altar and house on special occasions, such as Tet Holiday and festivals, their prayers will become miracles. Therefore, these kinds of paper are sold at any market of the Mong people. The Mong people use different natural materials to make paper, such as young bamboo, straws and Giang and Do trees. The materials play an important role in making paper as they decide the quality, colours, toughness, looseness, silkiness and coarseness of the paper.

The Mong people use young bamboo as a traditional material for making paper.

The Mong ethnic people use pestles to carefully beat the fibres to make the paper paste.

The materials for making paper are mixed with clean water and then filtered to take out the residue.

The stage of pouring the mixture over the paper-making mould.
Sung A Pha, a 49 year-old Mong man in Pa Co Commune in Mai Chau, Hoa Binh Province said: “The Mong ethnic people have practiced the craft of making paper for a long time. In the late months of the year, we often go into the forest to cut Giang trees to make paper”. After separating the green cover from the young Giang trees, they bring the trees, which are cut into small pieces, to a boil for one night. The materials are taken out and kept wet in a cool place for a certain time. When the materials become soft, they use pestles to carefully beat the fibres until become smooth and silky and then they mix the fibres with clean water, stir well and filter to take out the residue. Unlike the traditional methods of making paper of other ethnic groups, the Mong spread a layer of thin cloth over a bamboo-made stand to create the paper-making mould that is often made wet before pouring the mixture over it. The work requires the skillfulness and meticulousness of the Mong women. On sunny days, the paper becomes dry after four hours.

The Mong people use their traditional paper to decorate altar during Tet Holiday.

Paper is hung on the door.

The Mong people’s traditional paper.

Cutting traditional paper for rituals on Tet of the Mong ethnic people.

A stall selling traditional paper of the Mong people at a mountain market in Dong Van.

Different kinds of traditional paper of the Mong people.
“At present, the craft of making paper has strongly developed in hamlets of the Mong ethnic group and draws much attention from the local authority. Previously, paper was only used by the villagers, but it is now sold to other places.

“It is our traditional craft, and to make beautiful and durable paper, we must master all techniques and skills in every stage. With available material resources, all households in my hamlet have engaged in making paper that helps improve our living standards,” said Sung A Pha.

By Viet Cuong