Archaeological evidence shows, however, that paper existed several cen-turies preceding this date. Paper historians Pan Jixing, Elaine Koretsky, and others have cited research related to eight paper fragments found at sites that date prior to the Common Era. Rough paper, made of hemp and likely used for wrapping, was found in a tomb in Baquio that dates from circa 140 to 87 BCE.2 The oldest paper fragment documented was excavated from a tomb at the Fangmatan site near Ti-an-shui in the Gansu province.3 This small piece of a map, which is also the earliest example of paper written on with ink, dates from roughly 176–141 BCE, the early decades of the Western Han dynasty. Many historians have contributed to the research documenting paper-making's origins. However, in these histories, one element has not been thoroughly explored—the likely contributions of women to the course of papermaking's development. As the manipulators and holders of textile technology, the role that Han women played in the invention of paper may be significant. With their intimate connection to the processing, spinning, weaving, and laundering of hemp, women held the skills and technological know-how to play a major role in the invention of paper. The question at hand is how that might have come about. Paper historians have long surmised how the first papers may have been made. Dard Hunter assumed that silk may have been used for the first proto-papers; he notes in Papermaking, The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, that two characters were used for paper: the most common character, chih also stood for "silk," and the less common could be understood as "cloth."4 Paper historian Yang Juzhong pro-posed an early form of paper called cocoon paper, which "from the 6th century BC until 221 BC was made by extracting minute fibers left on the surface of a river when silk was extracted from cocoons." Furthermore, when discussing hemp, he notes the historical record of Han Xin, who in 200 BCE "floated some linen fabrics and made them into paper in ‘the old ladies' way.'"5 He describes this method as placing fabrics such as "old linen bags into water," and then lift-ing the minute frayed fibers that come off these bags onto a screen, producing paper. Librarian and historian Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien (as well as Hunter and Jixing) proposed that paper likely originated "from the process of pounding and stirring rags in water, after which the wadded fi- bers were collected on a mat."6 But how exactly did this process de-velop? In what ways did the people of the Han period interact with textiles that may have made this discovery come about? In the year 202 BCE, the Han dynasty was established. The Han period, which lasted over 400 years, is usually split into two halves: the earlier or Western Han, which lasted from 202 BCE to 8 CE; and the Eastern Han, dating from 25 to 220 CE. The entire era was a time of relative peace. During the Han period, Confucian ideals outlined a gendered division of labor that significantly connected women to hemp and weaving. Defined as the idea of nangeng nu-zhi, or the "man plows and the woman weaves," the roles men and women in the Han agrarian home were delineated to both provide a framework of filial duty that would help ensure social stability, and to create reciprocal and complementary responsibilities within the family that would lead to efficient production of the grain and cloth needed to feed and clothe a growing society.7 Fugong, one of the four "womanly virtues," called for women to be rooted in the do-mestic sphere and placed them in charge of spinning, weaving, and embroidery. The ideal went as far as to inspire a traditional gift for newborns: the birth of a boy was marked with a gift of a bow, while a girl was bestowed with the gift of a handkerchief.8 The Han dynasty saw a huge spike in population. Over the first century of the period, population doubled and tripled in some areas. The capital Chang'an (now modern-day Xi'an in the Shaanxi province) had a population of several million people. Despite the exis-tence of these huge urban centers, the Han dynasty had a predomi-nantly agrarian-based economy, and it was taxes from the peasants, paid in the form of grain and cloth, along with conscripted military and labor service, that kept the dynasty prosperous and maintained. Weaving, while practical for a family's own clothing and textile necessities, was also an activity managed by the government. While men were required by the government to pay their tax with grain, women used cloth as their form of government payment.9 In agricultural communities, women worked together to culti-vate silkworms and weave textiles made of hemp. Historian Michael Loewe notes that women "in the sixth month…would be spinning the textiles, before settling down to the summer task of washing old clothes, cutting new clothes, and dyeing the silk cloth."10 He goes on to note that "In the tenth month \[women\] were best employed on working hemp and fashioning sandals."11 While men grew the hemp, women transformed it into materials that were used in day-to-day life. Hemp woven by women was used for the robes worn by most of the populace. Knowledge of retting, scouring, and using alkaline solutions such as lime to de-gum fibers were also known and used during both the Qin12 and Han periods.13 With this intimate connection to hemp and textiles, women were in the position to, as Tsien notes, "pound and stir rags in wa-ter," a step that is now known to be one of the first in making paper. But when exactly would this interaction have occurred? Women may have pounded old textile material in water while doing laundry—and as historian Juzhong notes in his description of making paper in the "old ladies' way," "the ancient Chinese mainly wore linen clothes that needed to be washed often, so this was certainly a common phenomenon."14 But how was laundry actually done during that pe-riod? Unfortunately this information is scant, and little to nothing seems to be recorded on the subject in the Han historical record. Poetry, however, has made mention of laundering techniques. In a poem written in the middle of the fifth century, poet Bao Linghui writes, "the clothes pounder and block are mute at night." Several earlier poems, including "On hearing the Clothes pounder at night" and "Clothes-pounding song" describe a waiting lover hearing the sound of launderers pounding clothes with stones or mallets in the distance.15 We can also return to Han Xin's second-century-BCE descrip-tion of paper made in the "old ladies' way."16 In his book Written on Bamboo and Silk, Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien further explains the method, noting that Xin "witnessed many women washing rags in the Huai River."17 Similar laundering techniques continued throughout his- tory; music from the sixteenth century contains the lyrics: Pound cloth, pound cloth, keep pounding cloth, pound them until late at night when the moon is setting. Arms weak and unable to handle the heavy block and club, anxious heart just fearing the slowness of the pounding.18 The method of "washing clothes by putting them in water where it flows over rocks, then pounding them with the bare hands or a hard object such as a stone or club" is documented in China all the way up through the twentieth century.19 And Hunter, with his reference to the Chinese characters for silk and cloth in his account of early papermaking, reminds us of "the original Chinese method of beating or macerating the cloth or bark…by placing the material, with water, in stone mortars and pounding the mass to fibres by means of pestles, or mallets, operated by hand."20 With this description in mind, I decided to attempt to re-enact potential laundering techniques to see if I too could create paper in "the old ladies' way." I conducted this experiment with hemp fabric, using a stone to beat a piece of cloth from an old pair of hemp pants, and then setting it in water to see how the fibers were affected. I first beat the fabric, which had been soaked in water, for 45 minutes and then immersed the beaten mass into water using a winnowing basket lined with burlap, emulating a screen that could capture the loose fibers. Such a specially lined basket may have been used for rinsing beaten clothing in creeks, ponds, or lakes where debris needed to be kept away from the clothes being laundered. It was my supposition that after beating, if ran through a lined basket, the rinsed fabric could leave behind a paper-like residue. Burlap is but one possibility for lining; further experimentation will include testing this method with different linings such as silk or finer linen cloth. In my trials, this process did indeed produce a sheet-like mass of fibers, though it easily fell to bits when I tried to delaminate it from the burlap. Would it possible that launderers may have seen residue such as this and perhaps taken further steps to make larger sheets of "paper"? Preparation of hemp fiber for spinning is very similar to preparations seen in papermaking—the cut stalks were soaked for 12 to 24 hours, and then "covered…with matting to ferment. After about one day, the raw fibres…were peeled from the stem and un- derwent a cooking process in water and alkaline ashes."21 As is seen in more contemporary Chinese papermaking practices, stems were sometimes soaked in bundles in a pool and then sunk to the bot-tom with stones to further the retting process, thus creating a fiber that could be used to create a finer cloth. And it is significant that as Loewe notes above, washing old clothes and dying the silk both occurred during the summer months, meaning retting materials would have been on hand at the same time that clothes were laun-dered. Silk and ramie, also used for textile production, would often be soaked in lime to further degum and soften the fibers.22 With thoughts of these processes in mind, I tore the hemp fabric (taken from pants) into small pieces and soaked them in 3-percent slaked lime/water solution for two months. The fabric was rinsed free of all solution before beating. After beating it with a stone for 15 minutes, the weave of the fabric started to disappear, and the fibers appeared more and more macerated. After beating for 45 minutes, the weave of the fabric al-most completely disappeared. The fibers were very tender and easily pulled away from the mass. I then attempted to pull a sheet. I added fibers to the basket, lined with burlap, and agitated them with my hands. When I lifted the basket from the water, the fibers came together in an almost gauzy way; seen up close, small sections look distinctly like the joined and interwoven fibers of paper. In an attempt at a second sheet, I placed the fiber in an unlined basket that was immersed in water. I lifted and drained the basket, which left the fiber behind. This fiber also came together as a sheet that easily pulled away in one piece from the basket. For a final and perhaps a sheet most reminiscent of what rem-nants may have been left from a session of laundry, I poured my leftover vat water through the lined basket. When the water drained, fibers were left behind, forming a thin though poorly formed sheet of paper. With their sophisticated understanding of hemp and textiles, women held the technical expertise necessary to experiment and manipulate fiber toward new usable ends. The craft of papermaking throughout history has been upheld by a number of unnamed artisans. It seems quite plausible that women may have been the some of the first of these artisans, and their technological know-how may have been key to the furthering of the development of papermaking in early Han dynasty China. Notes 1. Jozef Dabrowski, "Remarks on the Invention of True Paper by Cai Lun" in IPH Congress Book 16 (2006): 5–16. 2. Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien, "Paper and Printing," in Chemistry and Chemical Technology, volume 5, part 1 of Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 38. 3. Ibid. 4. Dard Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (New York: Dover Publications, 1978), 139. 5. Yang Juzhong, "The Origin of Ancient Chinese Papermaking" in Paper as a Medium of Cultural Heritage: Archaeology and Conservation, ed. Rosella Graziaplena, IPH Congress Book 14, addenda 5 (Rome: Istituto central per la patologia del libro, 2004), 328, 331. 6. Tsien, 36. 7. Li-Hsiang Lisa Rosenlee, Confucianism and Women: A Philosophical Interpretation (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2006), 80. 8. Rosenlee, 81–82. 9. Michael Loewe, Everyday Life in Imperial China (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1968); Cho-yun Hsu, Han Agriculture: The Formation of Early Chinese Agrarian Economy (206 B.C.–A.D. 220), ed. Jack L. Dull, Han Dynasty China 2 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1980). 10. Ibid., 178. 11. Ibid. 12. The short-lived Qin dynasty that directly preceded the Han dynasty created many reforms that would later flourish during the Han period. During the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE), China's government became more centralized and hierarchical and thus became more bureaucratic, which meant more legal documents and written records. These documents, recorded on bamboo strips or refuse silk, were abundant. A lighter, more economical substrate for these documents became more and more necessary. The stability of the Western Han dynasty provided an atmosphere where these kinds of new technologies could be developed. 13. Dieter Kuhn, "Textile Technology: Spinning and Reeling," in Chemistry and Chemical Technology, volume 5, part 9 of Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988). 14. Juzhong, 331. 15. Kang-i Chang and Haun Saussy, eds., Women Writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). 16. Juzhong, 331. 17. Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien, Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. 2nd ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), 148. 18. "Pounding Cloth Melody," http://www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/ 13fxxp/fx32dyq.htm (accessed July 30, 2018). 19. See http://www.silkqin.com/02qnpu/32zczz/daoyi.htm#zhenchu for a definition of laundering. Also, Tamara Jacka notes that during her research performed in the 1980s, "Women who did not have a washing machine commonly spent half a day once or twice a week scrubbing and pounding clothes by hand." Tamara Jacka, Women's Work in Rural China: Change and Continuity in an Era of Reform (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 114. 20. Hunter, 139. 21. Kuhn. 24. 22. Kuhn, 24–38.