Dragon Scale – An Ancient Chinese Bookbinding Technology

Classic Chinese novel Dream in the Red Chamber in the ancient Dragon Scale book format

As the birthplace of paper and printing, ancient China developed the whole range of bookbinding techniques, from Policy Briefing (简策) during pre-paper age, Scroll (卷轴) with paper and silk, Sutra (经折), Butterfly (蝴蝶), Amalgamation (和合), Back-cover (包背), Wire-bound (线装) to Dragon Scale (龙鳞).

Among all bookbinding styles, Dragon Scale is one of the most fascinating.

The final product of the Dragon Scale book would look like a scroll when it is closed. You can view the content either by spreading the scroll or flipping the pages.

The heyday for the Dragon Scale packages was the Tang Dynasty. Yet the technique, like numerous other ancient Chinese techniques, was lost under the Manchu occupation since the late 17th. For centuries no one seemed to be able to figure out how the package was actually done.

Fortunately, after many experiments, some determined people in China have brought this dead technique back to life.

Below are books bound with some commonly used traditional Chinese bookbinding methods.

Policy Briefing-style Binding

Scroll-style Binding

Sutra-style Binding

Butterfly-style Binding

Amalgamation Binding

Back-cover Binding

Wire Bound 

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