by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Visitors to the bustling Havana International Book Fair this year are leaving toting books -- and delicate Chinese paintings that have become a popular souvenir item.
Printed with the latest digital technology, exquisite paintings on Chinese xuan paper, a kind of traditional paper made from rice for painting and Chinese calligraphy, have been selling like hot cakes at this year's fair, where China is the guest country.
The Chinese pavilion is one of the most visited by Cubans and foreigners alike, who hope to learn more about China's rich culture.
To satisfy their curiosity, China has brought some 3,000 academic and literary texts in Spanish, English and Mandarin, as well as other expressions of Chinese culture to the fair.
Among the attractions, a large roll of fine paper with beautiful reproduction of traditional Chinese paintings is making the biggest splash. The roll contains around 22 different scenes and rapidly thinned out in the first few days of the fair as visitors lined up to acquire their keepsake from China.
Sisters Dayana and Leydis Lopez bought four paintings to decorate their house, and their favorite is a lotus flower painting they plan to keep in their bedroom.
"China has not only brought books but other items that are representative of its culture. I really like the variety of colors they use in these paintings. The soft material and the quality is impressive," Leydis Lopez told Xinhua.
Buying a traditional painting, Dayana Lopez said, is not only a way to take home a piece of Chinese art, but also to display the delicacy, beauty and strength of the nation.
They were surprised to learn that the paintings were done on rice paper.
"I already loved the paintings, but when I found out the paper was made of rice it dazzled me even more because that is one of China's signature products. Now it has double value and meaning for me," Dayana Lopez said.
Cubans have also been surprised by a more contemporary aspect of these rice paper paintings: the use of an innovative digital printing technology called Printing on Demand.
An initiative of China National Publications Import and Export (Group) Corporation, the paintings spotlight the capacity to create high-quality digital prints for publishing and artwork.
Cuban painter Ruben Rivero said learning about the properties of the paper was his greatest discovery at the fair, as it is an ideal material for absorbing ink and he would love to try it in his work.
"Rice paper could only come from a culture in which rice is a way of life," Rivero said.
"I was fascinated by the idea because I didn't know about it. Today I learned of its existence and how long the Chinese had their own methods of printing before the invention of printing press," he said.