How to size Xuan Rice Paper

In the oriental art world the most popular canvas would be xuan rice paper. When you purchase the most regular Xuan rice papers you will find them rather large – most commonly 3 feet, 4 feet or 6 feet! They would also come in a pack of 100 sheets, which is called a “knife”. If you have have had trouble or wondered about how to size these papers, this post will provide you with some guidance.

A “knife” of Rice Paper

The 3 feet paper size is 50cm x 100cm; the 4 feet rice paper is 69cm x 138cm; the 6 feet is 97cm x 180cm. The most commonly used is the 4 feet, but for some very large productions the 6 feet can also be very useful. The oriental paintings are generally much larger in scale than the western ones, because we need lots of blank spaces in the painting besides the images that we actually paint. The same scale and paper sizes apply equally to calligraphy – according to the number of characters we can easily manage the character size on a standard paper. So when faced with a large sheet of paper that is 69cm x 138cm, is there a good way to cut them so that there is minimum waste? The answer is yes. Let us take the 4 feet paper to explain.

A Pang Palace, Qing Dynasty (12-screen painting)

A very common way of sizing the paper is to split the 4 feet into 2. This creates about 34cm x 138cm long sheets, which is very often seen in art creations, and if you have wondered about why there are so many artworks in this dimension, the answer is that this is one of the mot efficient ways of using the rice paper. The image above shows 12 paintings of this scale that forms a complete artwork.

If the paper is split into three from the long side, we will have 46cm x 69cm sizes, another useful size. This size involves a rather comfortable width-length ratio, and is used often by authorities when hosting art competitions. With this paper size, both horizontal and vertical styles work nicely. For even smaller sizes, another cut can be made to form the 46cm x 34cm style.

Painting by Qi Bai Shi

When resizing from the 34cm x 138cm papers, we can get 34cm x 69cm and 34cm x 34cm styles. They serve the smaller long and thin style or square style very well, giving us more options to work with.

These paper sizing styles are also the reason why many smaller sized papers are sold the way they are, and often also by 100 sheets. Below is a nice chart for you which can provide you with direct visual guide in paper sizing. Hope this post will help you figure out a nicer way in using rice paper!

Rice Paper Sizes

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