It is very difficult to buy good quality Chinese xuan paper and mounting silk in the UK. So whilst here in Nanjing I am off on a shopping expedition. Xuan paper is sold by the Chinese foot (bigger than the old English foot), and the usual sizes are 4, 5 and 6 feet. Even in China the 6 foot paper is becoming harder to buy and of course that is what I need. Hongxing or red star paper is the best but also the most expensive. The different quality of paper from the very thin mien lien paper to the thicker album leaf paper all have common characteristics of being white, soft and rolled in blanket like bundles. Each bundle has 100 sheets and the mark of quality is stamped in red on the sheet edge. Haggling over the price is expected and this can take some time; I find it exhausting and sometimes frustrating.
In mounting we tend to use two different kinds of silk: firstly, ling, which is patterned silk usually a phoenix and cloud design and secondly, juan or a plain silk. The silk is so light that when flapped in the air it billows and is momentarily held up before gracefully floating down. As with the paper, good quality silk is becoming harder to source.
Of course I am lured by all the brushes and had to buy some of these.