The Mounting Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy for English Speakers - Vincent's Calligraphy

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The Mounting

Once the calligraphy is done on the Xuan paper, it usually contains wrinkles and creases distributed randomly throughout the paper (Fig.1, below).  Therefore, before formal presentation, the paper needs to be straightened out to eliminate all wrinkles, and this process is known as mounting or wet mounting (裱).

The first step in wet mounting involves wetting the calligraphic work and gluing a piece of Xuan paper at the back of the work with a specialized glue.  The edges at the back of the work is then glued to a wall when the work is still wet, and subsequently let dry.  After at least one day, the entire piece will be left with no wrinkles as shown below on the right (Fig. 2):

Fig. 1: Sample work before mounting

Fig. 2: Sample work after mounting at my workshop
The work is then cut out of the wall.  At this point, one can already put the work in a matted photo frame for display.  Traditionally, however, silk strips are then glued to the edges and several layers of Xuan paper is added to the back and mounted to the wall again.  The end result looks like this:

Fig. 3: Sample work mounted with silk edges at my workshop

Scroll style mounting can also be made with a similar but slightly more sophisticated procedure:

Fig. 4: Sample work mounted in scroll style at my workshop

Traditionally, the entire process is hand-crafted and the glue used is derived from boiling the red algae Gloiopeltis furcata (1) and/or wheat starch.  The straightening of the paper is likely due to two forces during mounting: 1) When wet, the aligning hydrogen-bonding interactions between water and the hydroxyl groups in the polysaccharide chains in the paper, and 2) when drying, the contraction force resulting from the evaporation of the water.

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