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

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.

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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.