Given its position at the mouth of the Pearl River, Guangzhou has been an important port and trade hub throughout the centuries. Neighbouring two other giant trade and transportation centres – Macau and Hong Kong – traders from Europe arrived at the end of 17th and the beginning of 18th centuries and gave the city its international spirit. This atmosphere is captured nicely in this city plan from 1700: a busy harbour with a large number of ships coming and going, the symmetrical structure of the houses within the city walls and a second major gate leading inland. Tea was an important subject of trade in the 18th century.
Paper made of linen, hemp and cotton is still made today. It is a handmade, piece production and that is why handmade paper cannot compete with the industrially produced paper in price or accuracy of the size. Each individual sheet of a handmade paper is unique.
The resulting sheet properties can be affected during production. Different drying methods influence the surface of the paper. The color of the paper is determined by the composition of the pulp, both bleached and unbleached, and can be combined in different ways to achieve the exact shade a customer desires. For decoration, other fibres or dried flowers can be added to the pulp.The use of handmade paper has shifted towards documents of a representative character or towards art and design. It is ideal for graphics, paper installations, and collages. It can be also printed on; because of its unique appearance, it is used as a material for wedding announcements, diplomas or certificates. Invitations and other types of official documents are printed on handmade paper by companies and presidential and government offices.
Until the beginning of the 19th century, paper had been solely a handmade product. The resulting products were individual paper sheets. This changed in 1806 when the Fourdriniers brothers invented a machine that enabled the mass production of paper in rolls.
A demand for paper had increased rapidly in both Europe and America and the supplies of linen, hemp and cotton had become insufficient. A shortage of rags made the paper production a very expensive business and efforts were made to switch to another material. During the industrial revolution, the use of lye quickly spread and this was an important factor in the modification of the papermaking process. Lye would decompose a wood pulp and therefore wood, which was cheaper and more accessible than old rags, became the new source for paper production. The mass production of paper made of wood pulp began in Germany and Canada in 1840s. Since then, several steps in improving the chemical infusion to decompose the wood have been taken; from 1870 a mixture of hot water and sodium sulphide and sodium hydroxide was used for the wood pulp break down.