The Chinese used to write on bamboo (only rarely on expensive silk). This awkward writing material hindered an effective administration of empire and is partly responsible that China lagged behind the West, where papyrus and parchment proved superior.

After T'sai lung invented paper around AD 100 China moved ahead of the West for 1,400 years until Gutenberg's printing press returned the advantage to Europe.

T'sai lung's technique was so unusual that nobody else re-invented it. 700 years later it was copied by the Indians and Arabs, and paper reached Europe only in the 14th century.