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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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