Chinese Fan as Cultural Heritage

Written by Juliette Qi

 

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Fan as Decoration in a Tea Room

History of the Chinese Fan

The history of the manufacture of traditional Chinese fans dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 23 AD). The first fans were made of feathers and because of this, the Chinese character for the word “fan” takes the character for the word “feather” as its radical. Bamboo was also used as early as the 2nd century to make fans.

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Traditional Fan of Feathers

During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the folded fan appeared in China for the first time as “Japanese Fan” and became very popular during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It is said that it was in Japan that the folded fan was invented in the 9th century, before being introduced into China through Korea.

 

Various Uses

In ancient times, fans were used to keep the air fresh and to ward off sunlight and dust. People from all walks of life loved fans for their practical use.

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Braided Straw Fan

For practical purposes, the most commonly used were the palm leaf fans. In constrast, some fans that were made of quality materials and demonstrated great artistic skills were mostly used for decoration. Ivory fans, for example, were paid as tribute to the imperial court and were regarded as symbols of power and social status. Some of the paintings decorating the fans reached the heights of virtuosity, with many including calligraphy work and poems inscribed by masters.

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Fan of Literati  Front
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Fan of  Literati Back

The use of the Chinese fan as a combat weapon may seem more surprising to Westerners. Indeed, some martial arts used war fans as weapons of battle. This type of fan with a steel mount served at the same time as a rallying sign , and in the direction of troops and for protection during saber fights.

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Fan of Tai Ji as a “Weapon”

The practical use of fans has decreased with the innovation of electric fans and the air conditioner. Traditional fans, however, are still known for their artistic value, especially those featuring beautiful paintings. Fans can also made of various materials, such as sandalwood, feather, paper, silk, bamboo, etc.

Beyond its common practical uses, fans also serve as an accessory of communication in the hands of Chinese theater actors. The roundness and silky softness of fans attributed to female roles accentuate their seduction, while folding fans attributed to male roles tend to emphasize their dignity and intelligence. Thus, through gestures made with a fan, an actor manifests his good manners (Zhuge Kongming with his fan of feathers) or his sense of humor (Jigong with his broken fan).

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The Use of Fan in the Kun Opera

 

Craft as Cultural Heritage

There are different styles and traditions for crafting fans in different regions of China. Suzhou fans are usually made of silk and sandalwood, those of Hangzhou in black paper, those of Sichuan bamboo, those of Guangdong in palm leaves, etc.

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Chinese Fan Applied for Fashion Design

Fans are a characteristic product of traditional Chinese craftsmanship. Even though fans with a European flavor were made for exportation from the 17th century, this accessory has remained an essential element of the art of living in Chinese culture.

 

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

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Jade in Chinese Culture

Written by Juliette Qi

 

It’s widely acknowledged that the hardness of the jade is remarkable. It has greater resistance than steel and has been used by many ancient civilizations in the production of axes, knives and weapons. Besides its practical uses, jade also became a symbolic stone used in ornaments and other religious objects.

 

The History of Jade in China

 

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Detailed Jade Pieces

 

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Jade Shroud, Prince Liu Xiu’s Tomb, Jade, Gold and Bronze, 182 cm, Western Han (202 BC-8), Hebei Provincial Museum

 

As early as 3000 BC, jade was known in China as “yu”, the “royal jewel”. In the long history of the art and culture of the Chinese empire, jade has always had a special symbolic meaning, comparable to that of gold and diamonds in the West. Jade was a special spiritual stone, used not only for precious decorative objects, but also as material for the funeral furniture of the imperial family. It is considered as a link between the physical and spiritual world, and it is the only material that encompasses both the qualities of yin and yang, of Heaven and Earth, which earns it the nickname “Stone of Heaven”. In ancient times, jade seemed also mysterious to the Chinese and that is why jade articles were common for sacrificial rites, often later buried with the dead. To preserve his body, Liu Sheng, the king of Zhongshan (113 BC) was buried in a suit consisting of 2,498 pieces of jade, sewn together with gold threads.

 

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Jade Dragon, Hongshan Culture (about 5000 BC)

 

The history of jade is as old as Chinese civilization. Archaeologists have found jade objects dating back to the early Neolithic period (around 5000 BC), from the Hemudu Culture in Zhejiang Province, and the middle and late Neolithic period, from the Hongshan Culture along Lao River, the Longshan Culture along the Yellow River, and the Liangzhu Culture in the Tai Lake area.

 

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Yu Xiao with Eight Holes in White Jade

 

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Yuxiao with Seven Holes

 

Jade can be cut and polished, turned into tools, ornaments, utensils and many other objects. There are several ancient musical instruments made from jade, such as the jade flute, the Yuxiao (a vertical flute) and the jade chime.

 

The Symbolism of Chinese Jade

 

The Chinese love jade not only because of its beauty, but especially because of its significance and the human virtues it represents. According to Confucius (551-479 BC), “there are 11 De (virtues) in the jade. ”

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“The wise man of high morality is gentle as jade” – Confucius

 

The sages have compared jade to human virtues. For them, its polished and brilliant surface represents absolute purity; its perfect compactness and extreme hardness ensure intelligence; its angles, which do not cut well and seem sharp, represent justice; the pure and prolonged sound which it makes as soon as it is struck represents the music. Its color represents fidelity; its interior defects, always revealing themselves by transparency, evoke sincerity; its iridescent brilliance represents the sky; its admirable substance, born from the mountain or the water, represents the earth. Used alone without ornament, it represents chastity. The price the whole world attaches to it represents truth. To illustrate these comparisons, there’s a saying that goes  “When I think of a wise man, I find his merits seem to be like jade.”

 

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Jade pendant for Han Clothing

 

Even today, this stone is considered as a symbol of goodness, beauty and preciousness. It embodies the Confucian virtues of wisdom, justice, compassion, modesty and courage. In conclusion, jade symbolizes beauty, nobility, perfection, constancy, power, and immortality in Chinese culture, past and present.

 

 

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide” 

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!

If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us atbloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Clay Figurines Capture Spirit of Life

Working in clay may remind many Chinese people of their happy childhoods.

There are many different styles of clay-sculpting all over China, but Zhang Clay Figurine in Beijing is among the most famous practitioners of the art.

As the fourth generation in the family preserving the traditional technique, Zhang Chang, 71, bears the duty of sharing Chinese history.

Zhang Chang, 71, is the fourth generation of his family preserving the traditional techniques of making clay figurines
 Chinese Crafts

“The ancestor of Chinese clay figurine-making is probably Nuwa,” he jokes, citing the goddess in ancient mythology who used clay to create human beings.

His family business can be dated back to the mid-19th century, when Zhang Mingshan, from Zhejiang province, settled in Tianjin. Craftsmen of the time absorbed Western painting elements into their art to create more vivid details. Though clay figurines were traditionally considered to be grassroots pieces, the delicately made art was soon cherished by royal families in Beijing, especially by the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908).

Zhang explains that he keeps adjusting his work until the clay has completely dried; sometimes the making of one piece will last as long as one year as Zhang seeks just the right mood.

Zhang, who is now an art professor at Tsinghua University, has compiled academic works to document the traditional craft.

Some of the pieces by Zhang clay figurines

 Chinese Crafts

“The figurine-making conveys not only aesthetics and creativity, but experiences of life in society,” he says. “The inheritance of the skill in our family reflects a special spirit to guide generation after generation to find their way when chasing an art career.

“However, not everyone in the family will love the work. Only when they love it will they inject their personal feelings into the work. Figurines made by different people thus have different characteristics even though they follow the same discipline.”

Zhang says a person can usually learn the basics of figurine-making within three months, but much more practice is needed to perfect the art.

“Masters are only ushers at the gate, and each student needs to develop a personal understanding in their heart.”

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 12 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.


P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Dongyang Wood Carving

Dongyang, a city in the middle of Zhejiang Province near Shanghai, is famous for its woodcarving. It is one of the major centers of woodcarving production from the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties to the present day. Woodcarving in Dongyang has a long history and was named after its place of origin, Dongyang.

History

Dongyang woodcarving had already developed to a certain level by the Tang Dynasty(618-907), but was most prosperous in the last two feudal dynasties — the Ming(1368-1644)and the Qing(1644-1911).

The magnificent woodcarvings can be found in the imperial palaces in Beijing, Suzhou City, Hangzhou City and Anhui Province. During the reign of Qing Dynasty Emperor Qianlong(1711-1799), over 400 craftsmen came to the capital of Beijing to decorate the palaces and carve the lanterns. Those woodcarving articles are still kept in Gugong, the Imperial Palace in Beijing.

 
 Dongyang wood carving

After 1910, many carvers from Dongyong gathered in Shanghai and Hangzhou to produce export-oriented furniture and utensils combining Chinese and Western styles. Since the founding of the PRC, highly artistic frescoes and screens appeared on the market with the rapid development of technology. These works, focusing on historical stories and folk legends were designed using the ‘full carving’ technique, which formed a unique artistic style.

 
 Dongyang wood carving

In 1957, a 19-meter high wooden statue of Sakyamuni Buddha was sculpted for the main hall of Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou. In 1983, Dongyang City was named “the hometown of Chinese woodcarving” by the state council.

Features

The artistic forms of Dongyang woodcarving with distinct gradations and superb carving technology are unique in the handicraft and art fields.

 
 Dongyang wood carving

Dongyang woodcarving, also called “white woodcarving” (white is the natural color of the wood) is second to none in terms of Chinese crafts. In terms of techniques, Dongyang woodcarving features a high relief, multi-layers, and a rich composition of pictures, presenting a third dimension, full yet in neat order.

Dongyang woodcarving emphasizes relief skill; uses the traditional experience of a discreet, bird’s-eye perspective of the structure; stresses round composition; considers dispersion and multiplicity without looseness or disorder. Moreover, it has other features such as distinct gradations, obvious subjects and expressive plots which often help to tell a larger story.

 
 Dongyang wood carving

Dongyang woodcarving is mainly used to decorate houses and furniture with mainly realistic depictions of galloping horses, cranes, lotus flowers and human figures.

Nowadays, the assortment of Dongyang woodcarving products amount to more than 2,700 varieties, most of which — covering ninety percent of total output value — are daily wares such as cases, cabinets, stools, desks and tables. They are exported to over 50 countries and regions, while involving thousands of craftsmen in that industry.

by Xiao Xiao xiaoxiao@interactchina.com

About Interact China


“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”

We co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.

So far we carry 2000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Tailor Shop, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.

P.S. We Need People with Similar Passion to Join Our Blogging Team!
If you have passion to write about Oriental Aesthetic in Fashion, Home Decor, Art & Crafts, Culture, Music, Books, and Charity, please contact us at bloggers@interactchina.com, we would love to hear from you!

Mysterious Tibetan Jewelry

To some extent, Tibetan jewelries convey a traditional cultural tint of Tibet. That is why the Tibetan jewelries look more mysterious and exotic, and why there are so many people like Tibetan jewelry very much.

 

Religious Symbol

 

Tibet is a Buddhist nation, which is reflected strongly in its jewelry. Some Tibetan style pendants, which in Buddhism are ritual instruments for subduing demons, believed to dispel all sins and bring people power, courage, and intelligence. Many pieces have Sanskrit inscriptions of a religious symbolic nature.

These are the most common symbolic forms that you will definitely see in Tibetan jewelry:

Tibetan Jewelry

Om . The om symbol is the sound of the universe. It has great significance to Buddhists and Hindus.

Tibetan Jewelry

Tibetan Jewelry

Mantras . The most common mantra is “Om Mani Padme Hum,” which means “The Jewel Lotus Flower within the Heart.” When chanted, this ancient harmony connects us to the tune of the universe.

Tibetan Jewelry

Auspicious Symbols . There are eight auspicious symbols in Tibetan thought. These symbols serve a pedagogical function, teaching Buddhist principles to the people in a form that is easily remembered.

Tibetan Jewelry

The auspicious symbols are as follows:

Conch shell: the sound of the sacred path (Dharma)

Dual fish: spiritual abundance

Interwoven knot: representing the eternity of Lord Buddha’s teachings

Lotus flower: transformation of life into pure spirit

Treasure bowl: symbolizes spiritual jewels

Umbrella: protection from the corruption of personal desire

Victory Emblem: a banner representing spiritual attainment

Wheel of Dharma: the stillness of the soul capable of watching the world while remaining unaffected by it

 

Amulet

 

Tibetan jewelry is seen as a means to keep the wearers close to deities and also believed to have the ability to eliminate disease, fear of death, prolong life and increase wealth.

Tibetan Jewelry

Tibet is famous for its ancient beads, called Dzi beads. Dzi beads have amulet properties, as they are believed to be capable of driving away evil spirits, protecting against natural catastrophes, increase one’s energy, bring good reputation to oneself, and promote decency. Dzi beads have been dated back to 1000 B.C. and were once referred to as God Beads. The beads exist in different shapes and motifs, each serving a different spiritual function.

Tibetan Jewelry

Tibetans often wear a prayer box, known as Ghau (or Gau or Gao). These prayer boxes are amulets (protectors), and are usually made of silver. They are highly ornate in pattern and design, and usually are embedded with gemstones. The Ghau is worn as a necklace, with the box hanging at heart-length. Inside the box is placed a scroll prepared by a Buddhist priest. The scroll contains a mantra, prayer, image of Buddha, or sacred symbol. In place of a scroll, a Tibetan might place a gemstone with protective powers or medicinal herbs in the box.

Tibetan Jewelry

In Tibetans’ views, yak is a kind of beautiful and sacred animal. Among Tibetan people there has been a Legend of yak circulating: “after the death of each yak, it will turn into a guardian to protect those who still respect them. And the way to respect dead yak is putting its fur or bone at home or carrying them along.” Therefore, Tibetan people carve scripture on yak skulls as a sacrifice for religion. At the same time, Yak Bone ornament could be seen worn by a lot of people in Tibet, in such way they commemorate and respect yaks which contribute their whole lives to Tibetans. Yak bone ornament is a unique decoration, original and natural, tough and unconstrained, which adds a wild charm to the wearer. And yak bone jewelry can also used as amulet to avoid evils.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Shadow Puppet Play The Precursor of Modern Movie

Shadow play is taken as an earliest ancestor of modern cinema; the unique artistic value makes it be reserved from the ancient time. It is a kind of drama in which silhouettes made of ox, sheep, donkey or other animal leathers are projected onto a white screen. The performer plays the characters behind the screen while singing the libretto to tell the story.

shadow puppet

 

History of Shadow puppet play

The Shadow puppet play has a history of over 2000 years, which originated during the Han Dynasty (B.C 202 – A.D 220) when one of the concubines of Emperor Wu died. The emperor was so devastated that ignored the affairs of state, and he summoned his court officers to bring his beloved back to life. The officers got an idea and made a shape of the concubine using donkey leather. Her joints were animated using 11 separate pieces of the leather, and adorned with painted clothes. Using an oil lamp they made her shadow move, bringing her back to life. After seeing the shadow puppet play, Emperor Wu began to recover. Then the love story was recorded in the book of “The History of the Han Dynasty”.

shadow puppet

The Shadow puppet play began to become quite popular in Song Dynasty (A.D 960 – A.D 1234). During the Ming Dynasty (A.D 1368 – A.D 1644) there were 40 to 50 shadow puppet play troupes in Beijing. In the late 13th century, Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271 – A.D1368), the shadow show became a recreation in the barracks of the Mongolian troops. It was spread by the conquering Mongols to distant countries like Persia, Arabia, Turkey and other Southeastern Asian countries.

 

Shadow Puppet Play in China

 

The shadow puppet is the wisdom of Chinese artists, and it is also a popular handiwork in China. It is widely spread in most regions in China, except Tibet and Xinjiang, with different styles of shadow puppet play in different places. However, the characters shaping and performance skills are all quite exquisite, with play themes including the Chinese ancient magic, myths, religions, monarchs, legal cases, wars, as well as talented scholars and pretty ladies, the secular life and etc.

shadow puppet

The shadow play was the earlier form of Chinese Cartoon, and to perform a great shadow play is no easy task for it takes considerable expertise in the fine arts, often requiring artists to perform multiple skills at once.

Nevertheless, performers find it rewarding because it brings the audience a lot of happiness. The major problem now is that the audience is aging fast, and the vast majority of young people do not really understand the ancient art form.

 

Shadow Puppet Play in other Countries

 

shadow puppet

The show began to spread to Europe in the mid 18th century, when French missionaries to China took it back to France in 1767 and put on performances in Paris and Marseilles, causing quite a stir. In time, the ombres chinoises, with local modification and embellishment, became the ombres francaises and struck root in the country.

At present, more than 20 countries are known to have shadow show troupes.

The principle methods of shadow performance adopted by the shadow puppet played an important leading role in the invention of the modern movie and the development of the movies and cartoons. Nowadays, the Chinese shadow puppet plays have been collected by the museums of many countries in the world. Meanwhile they are the best souvenir given by Chinese government officials to their foreign guests.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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The Different Kinds of Shadow Puppets and Silhouettes

Puppets are one of the oldest forms of theater, and shadow puppetry in particular has a rich history in both Asia and the west. Historians trace the origins of shadow puppets to China, at least as far back as the Han Dynastry of around 220 BCE. Unlike three-dimensional puppet figures such as marionettes, shadow puppets appear only as forms on a lit screen. Many world cultures have adopted this art form, with variations both in technique and content.

 

China and Taiwan

 

Chinese shadow puppetry is characterized by symbolism conveying information about characters onstage. Red indicates a noble character, green a slightly less august personage, and black means a person of low rank. The Chinese character for longevity marks a puppet character as old. Chinese shadow puppets are multijointed, allowing for a great range of movement.

 

India and the Hindu Influence

 

Indian shadow puppets have a single piece for both head and body. Only the hands and feet move, unlike the more flexible Chinese puppets. Shadow puppets have been used for centuries to enact the two Indian epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Offerings are made before performances to the elephant-headed Hindu God Ganesha, considered the patron of shadow puppet theater.

 

Southeast Asia

 

Other Asian cultures were influenced by the Indian rather than the Chinese shadow puppet design. In Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, shadow puppet theater traditionally was based on the the two epics of India. More modern influences are changing the content of performances; in Thailand, modern shadow puppetry may even depict cowboys. In Indonesia, stories from Islam and Christianity as well as Hinduism are now performed.

 

Greece and Turkey

 

Greek and Turkish shadow puppets have multiple moving parts like the Chinese style. Greek puppet theater has three distinct styles: comic depictions of everyday life, tales of Greek mythology and political tales about the Greek struggle against oppression.

 

European Silhouettes

 

While Asian shadow puppetry permits the audience to see the rods that manipulate the puppets, the European style deliberately hides the puppeteer’s tools. European shadow puppets, known as silhouettes, were first used in France in the middle of the 18th century.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Features of Chinese Paper Cut

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.

Chinese Paper Cut

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.

 

Themes

 

Chinese Paper Cut

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.

Chinese Paper Cut

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.

Chinese Paper Cut

Chinese Paper Cut

Chinese Paper Cut

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.

 

Categories

 

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

Chinese Paper Cut

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

Chinese Paper Cut

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

Chinese Paper Cut

Chinese Paper Cut

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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Making Chinese Shadow Puppet

A shadow puppet takes as many as 24 procedures and more than 3000 cuts. The process for making the puppets is as follows.

First, remove the fur and blood from a sheepskin, donkey skin or other animal skin; Shadow puppets are made of leather for the simple reason that leather is much lighter, easier to play and carry around.

shadow puppet

Second, apply chemical treatment to the skin, making it thinner and semi-transparent;

shadow puppet

Third, apply tung oil on the skin;

shadow puppet

And fourth, engrave the skin into your desired images.

The trunk, head and limbs of a puppet are separately carved but joined together by thread so that each part could be controlled by the operator to simulate human movements.

The height of finished puppets can be as tall as 55 centimeters and as short as around 10 centimeters.

 

The Design of the Figures

The design of the figures follows traditional moral evaluation and aesthetics.

To overcome the limit imposed when only the profile of puppets can be seen, shadow puppets use exaggeration and heavy dramatization. The faces and the costumes of puppets are vivid and humorous. The flowery color, the elegant sculpting and smooth lines make shadow puppets not only props but also artwork.

There are two kinds of shadow puppet face, full face and outlined face. The former is applying color to a piece of leather to show the character of the figure, which is usually colored red or black, while the later is hollowed-out facial outline, which requires an exceptional skill in craftsmanship. Regular shadow puppet face is just an outline, known as “half face”, sometimes clown and villain are carved into the outline with both eyes can be seen. The body of shadow puppet figure is engraved using chisel, which has variety of designs, such as snow flake, fish scale, pine needle, etc.

shadow puppet

The figures all have a large head and a small body, which tapers down. A man has a big head and a square face, broad forehead and a tall strong body without being too masculine. A woman has a thin face, a small mouth and slim body without being too plump. Effeminacy and gentleness are the norm for Chinese beauty. The hair and dresses of female figures are usually adorned with patterns like flowers, grass, clouds and phoenixes and patterns like dragons, tigers, water and clouds are usually used on male figures.

The audience can also tell a figure’s character by seeing his mask.

shadow puppet

The leather puppets are painted with various colours to show their different qualities as kind or wicked, beautiful or ugly. Like the masks in Beijing Opera, a red mask represents uprightness, a black mask, fidelity, and a white one, treachery.

The positive figure has long narrow eyes, a small mouth and a straight bridge of nose, while the negative one has small eyes, a protruding forehead and sagging mouth. The clown has a circle around his eyes, projecting a humorous and frivolous air even before he performs any act.

shadow puppet

Lavish background pieces including architecture, furniture, vessels and auspicious patterns are featured in shadow puppet shows.

Earthy art that it is, shadow puppet shows impress audiences by their vividness and refinement. A framed puppet can be a novel and pleasant souvenir.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

P.S. We need people with similar passion to join or partner with us in promoting ethnic handicrafts! Please contact us at interact@interactchina.com to make any suggestions that you may have in co-operating with us, or join as Affiliate.

Chinese Paper Cut- Artistic Creations from Nimble Fingers

China paper cut, also literally called window flower or cutting picture in Chinese, refers to handicrafts made by cutting paper with scissors or knives to form different patterns and pasting them on walls, windows, doors and ceilings.

 

History

The art of paper cutting has a long and rich history. Prior to the invention of paper, the cutting art had already been practiced on leather and gold and silver foils.

Chinese Paper Cut It is generally believed that the craft of paper cutting emerged soon after paper was invented during the Han dynasty (206 BCE-221 CE). As paper was highly precious in the early days, the art of paper cutting first became popular in the royal palaces and houses of nobility as a favorite pastime among court ladies. Later, during the 7th through 13th centuries, paper cutting was immensely popular during folk festivals and celebrations. By the 14th century, the art had spread to the Middle East and Europe; and by the 15th century onward, paper cutting art works had become an integral part of the everyday life of the people. Throughout the Qing Dynasty (1644CE-1912CE) many paper cutting skills, including drafting and the use of smoked papers, were developed.

However, the art of paper cutting was on the verge of dying out during late Qing Dynasty as old China experienced successive years of the disaster of war brought on by domestic turmoil and foreign invasion. Amidst a myriad of changes in their lives, most people had no leisure time to engage in the study of the art of paper cutting. The Republic of China later tried to revive the art in the 1980s. The art of paper cutting has again received a great deal of attention because of heavy publicity, resulting in even more innovative artwork.

 

Usage

 

The early paper cutting might be related to worshipping gods, evocation and sacrificing to the dead. In the past, paper was cut into images of people or things such as money and clothes, which were buried with the dead or burned at funerals. This is a superstition that these things burned or buried would accompany the dead in another world. Paper cuttings were also used to decorate sacrifices.

Chinese Paper Cut

Chinese Paper Cut

Today, paper cuttings are chiefly decorative and still widely used today at important festivals, especially during the New Year. They are usually made with red paper, which is the most popular and propitious color in Chinese culture. They ornament walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns in homes and are also used on presents or are given as gifts themselves. Entrances are decorated with paper cut outs are supposed to bring good luck. In addition, they can be used as embroidery patterns for clothes and lacquer works.

 

Handmade Paper Cut

 

Paper cut are all handmade. There are two methods of making paper cuts, one use scissors, the other use knives.

Chinese Paper Cut

In the scissor method, several pieces of paper — up to eight — are fastened together. The motif is then cut with sharp, pointed scissors.

Knife cuttings are fashioned by putting several layers of paper on a relatively soft foundation consisting of a mixture of tallow and ashes. Following a pattern, the artist cuts the motif into the paper with a sharp knife which is usually held vertically. Skilled crafters can even cut out different drawings freely without stopping. More paper cuts are made with the knife-cutting technique rather than scissors since it is less time consuming.

In rural areas, paper cut is traditionally a handicraft for women. In the past, every girl was supposed to master it and brides were often judged by their skills. Professional paper cutting artists are, on the other hand, usually males who earned guaranteed incomes by working in workshops.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

P.S. We need people with similar passion to join or partner with us in promoting ethnic handicrafts! Please contact us at interact@interactchina.com to make any suggestions that you may have in co-operating with us, or join as Affiliate.