Scroll Making
Part one
Part two



The construction of a traditional Japanese hanging scroll

The Japanese hanging scroll remains one of the most subtle but least understood of all the art forms which combine paper and textile. Its construction presents many difficulties; it must combine strength with flexibility - strength to protect and support the artwork and flexibility to allow repeated rolling and unrolling of the scroll. The scroll mount must also successfully assemble up to six different types and weights of textile, and balance each different component so that the scroll will function uniformly


The construction of a scroll mount involves using a variety of different types of paper. These are usually made of mulberry fibres, other fibre types such as mitsumata and gampi are also found in some of the more specialist papers. Mulberry is favoured because of its fibre length and suppleness. The best Japanese papers are those which are made by hand and are produced during the winter months when snow is available for whitening the fibres naturally and the cold water keeps the fibres tight and compact during the sheet formation.

The range of different types of textile which have been used for scroll mounting is enormous. Traditionally silks woven specifically for mounting are used, donsu (satin), pa (plain woven silk), kinran (gold brocade), nanako (plain basket weave), takyamachi (embroidered silk gauze) to identify just a few.

Mounting styles
The style of mount selected for a painting reflects the degree of its formality. The mounting styles fall into three broad categories. shin mounts are the most complicated to construct and are the most formal group. These are always used for mounting Buddhist paintings. The most frequently used group of styles is the gyo group. These are used for a wide variety of subjects ranging from courtesans to landscape paintings. The third category is the so group, the least formal, and mounts in this style often have very narrow sides (a sub-style called rimpo). These are often associated with scrolls relating to the Japanese tea ceremony.

The adhesive used in traditional scroll mounting is gluten-free wheat starch paste. Japanese starch is processed differently to that in Europe and produces a smoother less granular paste. It should be soaked prior to cooking and be stirred vigorously over a direct heat for between 30/60 minutes. This same paste is used to prepare the aged starch adhesive furunori. This is stored for between 8/10 years during which time through retro-gradation it becomes softer and more flexible. This is used for all but the first linings of the scroll mount components and is crucial in keeping the finished scroll soft and supple. An adhesive made from seaweed is used for facing weaker paintings in order to support the painting during the removal of paper linings. Any synthetic adhesives are avoided as they are not reversible. Freshly prepared soy milk is used as a size prior to any in-painting of repaired areas, whilst a refined gelatine- a deer glue size, is the most commonly used consolidate for loose, friable pigment.

Chinese/Japanese Mounting Smoothing brush range. These are used dry on the top layer of freshly stuck down paper, that backs a painting or scroll. The wide brush smoothes the paper giving just the right pressure to flatten the glued paper onto its base sheet-obtainable from
 Sometimes the white paste can initially show up as lighter marks on the back of the painting but after a while these can settle down and disappear. :

Please note that where there are older restorations, repairs done before we remount the scroll, these are usually done using rice paper and when we reback the picture these older repairs can sometimes show up as lighter areas on the scroll. If we are able to identify these before we start we will stop and let you know about these before we proceed Otherwise they might just appear after we reback the painting. Rebacking gives the scroll strength .

The construction of a Japanese scroll mount

First linings
The following is a description of scroll mounted paintings on silk.

The most difficult bond to accomplish in scroll mounting is that between fabric and paper. Consequently freshly prepared starch paste is used for the first linings. It is prepared for use by sieving and then diluted further as necessary. The papers used for the first linings would be selected for weight according to the fabric to be lined and are generally of the mino type. The lining paper would be liberally covered with adhesive, then using considerable pressure excess paste would be removed leaving a thin even film. The pasted sheet would then be laid on a drying felt to allow some of the surface moisture to evaporate. The mounting silks would have previously wetted to shrink and to remove any dressings or residues and any pattern carefully aligned whilst wet. Once the silk has been allowed to dry considerably the lining paper would then be firmly brushed into place.

Second linings
The second linings for the painting and mount components consist invariably of a Japanese paper called misu. This is a soft mulberry paper available I a variety of thicknesses and contains gofun a powdered oyster shell to lend both opacity and alkalinity. Various weights of paper are chosen for each part of the scroll, the most flexible being given a heavier misu whilst the least flexible a correspondingly lighter lining. This serves to make each part of the scroll compatible. The misu paper linings are attached using a dilute aged starch adhesive and are pounded using a heavy hemp palm brush. This meshes the fibres and allows a thinner adhesive to be used. After drying the various silks and the painting (which is treated in exactly the same manner) are re-wetted and then attached to a Japanese drying board to stretch and flatten.

Once thoroughly dry the silks are cut and trimmed prior to assembly. Cut edges are sealed with new starch paste to prevent fraying. The scroll is assembled and great care must be taken to align patterns sympathetically, the joints are overlapped by 3mm and are tapped with a small metal hammer to ensure a solid bond. The edges of the scroll are creased and folded at this time.

Third linings
This layer also utilises misu paper and aged adhesive. It covers the whole of the assembled scroll and acts to unify the mount. This lining is applied from the bottom to the top of the scroll to enable the last backing which would be applied in the opposite direction to be removed easily if necessary at a later time.

Fourth linings
The paper used for the last layer of the scroll is called uda. It has a clay loading and is generally more opaque than misu . The clay content assists in providing a better polished surface for the finished scroll when it is burnished on completion. A dilute aged paste and the use of the pounding brush again secure the lining. A silk strip is attached to the top of the scroll to provide a protective cover for the scroll when rolled. After the last backing the scroll is tensioned and allowed to dry thoroughly before being lightly waxed and burnished. The edges are then trimmed and the roller/stave fitted along with the metal fittings and the silk hanging/tying braid.



Terminology of Scrolls:

A kakemono (掛物?, "hanging"), more commonly referred to as a kakejiku (掛軸?, "hung scroll"), is a Japanese scroll painting or calligraphy mounted usually with silk fabric edges on a flexible backing, so that it can be rolled for storage.


As opposed to *Makimono, which are meant to be unrolled laterally on a flat surface, like  a written scroll (Torah etc) and these are usually long story scrolls that are unrolled to sometimes a great length. I have even seen one at over 35 feet. *A Makimono (jpn. 巻物) is a Japanese hand scroll, an ink-and-brush painting or calligraphy which is supposed to be held in the hand and unrolls horizontally. Makimono were taken to scenic places  to enjoy them in a beautiful surrounding, and stored away when home. They were also given as gifts.

However, a kakemono is intended to be hung against a wall as part of the interior decoration of a room. It is traditionally displayed in the tokonoma alcove of a room especially designed for the display of prized objects. When displayed in a chashitsu, or teahouse for the traditional tea ceremony, the choice of the kakemono and its complementary flower arrangement help set the spiritual mood of the ceremony. Often the kakemonoused for this will bear calligraphy of a Zen phrase in the hand of a distinguished Zen master.

In Bonsai , a bonsai is placed on a table or a slab in a Tokonoma with an accent planting or object to one side and the scroll in a position to form a triangle behind. Each, scroll and object/accent plant, is designed to harmonise with the Bonsai.

In contrast to the Makimono, Kakemono is a painting that unrolls vertically and hangs in a recess in a traditional Japanese house or in a teahouse.

The term also refers to maki-zushi.

In contrast to byōbu (folding screen) or shohekiga (wall paintings), kakemono can be easily and quickly changed to match the season or occasion.

The kakemono was introduced to Japan during the Heian period, primarily for displaying Buddhist images for religious veneration, or as a vehicle to display calligraphy or poetry. From the Muromachi period,landscapes, flower and bird paintings, portraiture, and poetry became the favorite themes.

If the width is shorter than the height, it is called a vertical work (竪物 tatemono?) or Standing Scroll (立軸tatejiku?)(needs verification); if the width is longer than the height, it is called a horizontal work (横物yokomono?) or horizontal scroll (横軸 yokojiku?).

The "Maruhyousou" style of kakejiku has four distinct named sections. The top section is called the "ten" heaven. The bottom is the "chi" earth with the "hashira" pillars supporting the heaven and earth on the sides. The maruhyousou style, (not pictured above) also contains a section of "ichimonji" made from "kinran" gold thread.On observation, the Ten is longer than the Chi. This is due to the fact that in the past, Kakemono were viewed from a kneeling (seiza) position and provided perspective to the "Honshi" main work. This tradition carries on to modern times.


There is a cylindrical rod called jikugi (軸木) at the bottom, which becomes the axis or centre of the rolled scroll. The ends on this rod are in themselves called jiku, and while used as grasps when rolling and unrolling the scroll it is still better not to strain these and use the scroll itself to roll and unroll.

Scroll ends Kotsu Jikusaki-Bone Scroll ends, taken from
damaged scrolls prior to remounting. These will be carefully
added back to the individual scroll

Other parts of the scroll include the "jikubo" referenced above as the jikugi. The top half moon shaped wood rod is named the "hassou" to which the "kan" or metal loops are inserted in order to tie the "kakehimo" hanging thread. Attached to the jikubo are the "jikusaki", the term used for the end sections, which can be inexpensive and made of a resin material or beautifully made decorative pieces of ceramic or lacquered wood. Additional decorative wood or ceramic pieces  hung on the ends (Jiku / Jikusaki) of scrolls to keep these flat on the wall are called "fuchin" and come with multicoloured tassels.

The variation in the kakehimo, jikusaki and fuchin make each scroll more original and unique. We are designing a new range of Fuchin with their own hand made silk boxes. These new Tokonoma scroll Fuchin will be very beautiful additions to your scroll and should be ready early 2011



Scroll maker: Hyougushi

Scroll calligrapher:

Japanese calligraphy is perhaps the most artistic form of writing known to man. This is how the Japanese used to write in their local language. The practice of calligraphy by their Chinese counterparts seemed to have had a huge impact on the art form in Japan.

In fact for the longest time the most revered calligrapher of Japan was actually a Chinese man called Wang Xizhi. But this was back in the fourth century. It was not until the Japanese developed their own unique syllabaries such as the hiragana and katakana that the Japanese calligraphy came into a style of their own.

A syllabary is a set of written symbols that represent (or approximate) syllables, which make up words. A symbol in a syllabary typically represents an optional consonant sound followed by a vowel sound.

The Japanese language uses two syllabaries together called kana, namely hiragana and katakana (developed around AD 700).

 Calligraphy by the Buddhist Monk Shinmou Hara ( 1833-1906)

The halo of the bhaisakyaguru statue in the Horyu-ji Temple is regarded as being the oldest known example of Japanese calligraphic text. This was actually Chinese text which was written in the Shakeitai that had been famous since six dynasties.

The Kongo Jodaranikyo is considered to be the oldest hand copied sutra in Japan. Other typical examples from the same time period are that of the stone in Nasu County and the broken Stone in Uji Bridge. The influence of the northern Wei robust style of calligraphy is apparent on these examples.

The first text that really shows the unique Japanese style of calligraphy is Soukou Shujitsu. The Tanka that was written in 749 shows clearly the distinction between the Chinese style of calligraphy and the Japanese.


Horyu-ji Temple Nara



The Heian era began with the reign of Emperor Kammu and the shifting of the capital to Heian Kyo in 794. Much of the calligraphic work remained unchanged during this period. The royalty, aristocracy and the court ladies all wrote by copying Chinese poetry texts in an artistic manner

Needless to say the influence of Wang Xizhi was predominant in the calligraphy of the time. There were other Chinese calligraphers that were highly regarded in Japan as well. Alongside however, Japan was slowly but surely developing its own style of calligraphy. The ruling party had realized that Japan was a small and separate entity from China and was in great need of a writing style that was different from that of China. This led to the development of the official Japanese calligraphic style.

Today calligraphy is one of the elementary subjects taught in schools in Japan. It is one of the compulsory subjects during primary education and at the higher levels one has the option to choose between calligraphy, painting and music. Some universities have even developed specialization and teacher training courses in the field of calligraphy.
Modern Calligraphy is often used to make a scroll with a special message

With the improvements in means of mass communication Japanese calligraphy was exported to the west. The western artists at once fell in love with this poetic form of writing. The calligraphers were especially awe struck by the beauty of Japanese writing. Even artists with a specialization other than calligraphy were known to have learnt the art parallel to their own specialty.

Japanese calligraphy is also considered to be highly fashionable in today’s times. You will be able to find all sorts of fashion accessories and interior decoration items with Japanese calligraphy on them.

Calligraphy Brush set from Shao Zhi Yan, a top brush making factory in China.

General Glossary


Yamatoe is a style of the depiction that had been cultivated under the Japanese indigenous natural features and customs.

Nanga ( Bunjinga )

Nanga ( bunjinga ) was a school of Japanese painting in the late edo period, had been influenced by Chinese literati painting. Nanga ( bunjinga ) painter almost always depicted Chinese subjects such as landscapes, birds, flowers and other, with having admiration for traditional Chinese culture.

Tosa school

Tosa school is a school of Japanese painting "Yamatoe", was founded in Heian period ( 15th century ).


Painting with Chinese poem, a traditional style of Oriental painting


Original box, usually made of paulownia wood, that holds a hanging scroll. On the lid are the title of work and signature inscribed by the artist.


Box, usually made of paulownia, that holds a hanging scroll. The lid is not inscribed with the title of work or signature by the artist.


It means the box which a successor, a relative or a judgement person authorized that it is a work of artist oneself.


Outer box that holds an inner box containing a hanging scroll. In most cases a lacquered paulownia box.

Hyogu (Hyoso)

To mount a work of art onto a hanging scroll or byobu screen using traditional techniques and materials (mainly silk fabric, washi paper, and starch paste). “Hyougu” sometimes refers to the decorative surface around the work.


Silk fabric or brocade with gold foil woven into it


Burnished silk fabric, made from raw silk.

Condition of Scroll or painting

Kou / Very Good

Otsu / Good

Hei / Slightly damaged in fair condition and with artistic merit

Tei / Damaged but has  adequate artistic merit