The art of paper cutting remains one of the most popular traditional arts in China. It is intended to be decorative, not as a free-standing work of art, but today they are seen as a kind of art by lovers of paper cuttings worldwide.
Balance and Proportion
Paper cuttings come in all sizes, from the usual 3” x 5” to several feet high. Since paper cuttings were intended as decorations to beautify an otherwise unexpressive window, door panel, or other surface, it was important that the balance and proportion of the motif be suited to the space which it would occupy.
There are basic cut outs that are a single image. And there are symmetrical designs that are usually created by some folding over a proportioned crease, and then cutting some shape. When unfolded, it forms a symmetrical design. Symmetry was highly prized, as well as extreme neatness in the cutting. Colors were generally vivid, but soft and harmonious. Special techniques were required to achieve crescents or hackle marks.
Since the art of paper cutting is a true folk art, its craftsmen were mostly ordinary folk from the countryside and thus common themes were those which depicted scenes from everyday life. The images depicted imbue the paper cutting with a strong sense of Chinese Custom. An understanding and scrutiny of paper cutting is a good beginning to get to know and appreciate the complexity of Chinese folk arts.
Paper cuttings are popular because of their expression of wishes and hopes. Wishes for wealth, health and longevity are conveyed through paper cuttings. For example, during the Chinese New Year, the character ‘ Fu (福, blessing)’ is posted upside down on the door to express people’s wish for the coming of ‘Fu’. At a wedding ceremony, a red paper cutting with the character ‘Xi (囍, double happiness)’ is a traditional and essential decoration. At a birthday party of an old person, paper cuttings with the character ‘Shou (寿, longevity)’ are often seen.
The auspicious designs symbolize good luck and the avoidance of evil. For example, the peach symbolizes longevity; the pomegranate, fertility; the mandarin duck, love; the pine tree, eternal youth; the peony, honor and wealth; while the magpie perched on the branch of a plum tree presages a lucky event that will soon happen. In the world of Paper-cut art, the skillful folk craftsmen make full use of their imagination to create various works with beauty and originality.
As the art has been passed down through the generations, the mainstream techniques developed many diverse forms, and paper cuts made in different areas have different characteristics. There are mainly 3 categories of paper cutting.
a. The South School
The representatives are Foshan paper-cutting in Guangdong Province and Fujian Province folk paper cuttings. The former is rigorous, decorative, elegant, and splendid. The latter has different features in terms of its themes, among which the gift flowers of Putian are the most special.
b. The Jiangzhe (Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces) School
The representatives are Yangzhou paper cuttings in Jiangsu Province, and Zhejiang Province folk paper cuttings. The former is spiritual and elegant. The latter focuses on themes of flowers, fruits, birds and fish.
c. The North School
The representatives are Shanxi Province paper cuttings, Shaanxi Province folk paper cuttings and Shandong Province folk paper cuttings. Paper cuttings in Shanxi Province are relatively simple and concise among the three. Shaanxi Province paper cuttings have odd shapes and interesting connotations. Paper cuttings in Shandong Province have unique aesthetic and unrestrained styles with rich patterns.
by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com
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