Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Yellow dye on Chinese paper

Yellow dye on Chinese paper

From: Peng Peng Wang <ppwang>
Date: Saturday, May 23, 1998
Elizabeth Morse <elizabeth_morse [at] harvard__edu> writes

>Subscribers to the list may be interested to note
>that the yellow dye used to dye the paper in the Diamond Sutra is
>huangbo, derived from the Amur cork tree Phellodendron
>amurense.  The dye is water soluble and contains three
>yellow alkaloid chromophores: berberine, palmatine and jatorrhizine.

I am the one who post the question about the safety of paper coated
with red lead and would like to thanks those who contribute to
better understanding of this ancient practice and red lead itself.

Actually there was another "fatal" practice, which is not as well
known as red lead coating, but I think it is worth mentioning here.
Arsenic sulfides (might be As2S2 , As2S3, or As2S5), called Ci Huang
and Xong Huang in Chinese, are popular Chinese painting materials
for yellow and used to coat paper since it is highly toxic to

It is very interesting that none of  the Chinese and Taiwanese
publications discussing the insecticidal practices, at least none on
my hands,  concern the safety issue for conservators or artists.
According to a fifth-century literature, Ci Huang was kept in a
solid form like inksticks. Ci Huang was ground into powder and later
mixed with glue when applying onto paper. It was said that this
practice was not popular since Ci Huang was very expensive. However,
Ci Huang and the dye from Amur cork tree provide the same yellowness
so Ci Huang was used to correct writing mistakes on the paper dyed
with the sap of Amur cork tree, pretty much like modern opaque
liquid for correction.

This rare information is found in an article "The Ancient
Insecticidal Practices on Works of Art on Paper" of by Zhou, Bao
Zhong in Zhong Yuan Wen Wu, 1984, vol. 4, a Chinese magazine
published in Mainland China.

Peng-Peng Wang
Graduate Student, Museum Studies Program
San Francisco State University

                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:96
                   Distributed: Friday, May 29, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-11-96-002
Received on Saturday, 23 May, 1998

[Search all CoOL documents]

URL: http://