Apr 23, 2013


Chinese Folk Art -- Paper Cutting

Long time ago, glassware was very expensive. Instead, people would paste a kind of Korean paper to their window frames. When the New Year came, people would paste once again to give it a new look. But the newly covered white paper looked so plain and neat that old women and young girls would do some paper-cut to decorate the windows with their clever hands. They used red paper to cut auspicious designs, such as wishes for super luck or for a smooth year. Each design was fine and cute. In addition, they also made the paper-cuttings of the Dragon Boat Festival. They used white paper as the background, pasted the red-paper-cut design of five poisonous plants and gourds as the subject, and then put a bunch of green Chinese mugwort in each side. The red, white and green colors here matched well and were so bright.

When there were wedding ceremonies at home or other celebrations, these red paper-cuttings would be in great need. The bridegroom's family would send the bride a plate covered by red paper as a wedding gift. In the plate, there must be at least one paper-cutting of Chinese character double happiness, or more tastefully, an auspicious design. The bride's family would also use these lucky designs to decorate all the china and tinwork.

Also, in temple fairs there were many stands selling all kinds of designs, which were cut in white paper. Women could put them in their pillows or uppers of their shoes to follow the patterns to embroider. They needn't draw those patterns themselves. From above, the paper-cutting was used as the decoration of the windows and the design patterns of embroidery; it was used as an ornament to presents as well. Indeed, it was a very practical folk art. For example:

Paper-cuttings in Xianyang

Xianyang, China's former capital city, boasts of its thousand years long history which added charm to its humanity sights and social customs to enrich its ancient civilization. Its paper-cuttings combined the soul of the ancient cultures with the wisdom of generations of handicraftsmen in history. It could be so unsophisticated and elegant, serious and humorous that it has already become a folk art treasure for its rich and profound meanings inside.

The long history became an inexhaustible supply for Xianyang paper-cuttings. Its styles vary from freehand works on ceremonies of births and weddings to realistic works on natural creatures such as plants and animals. There are not only ancient stories and old customs on the paper-cuttings, but also folklore legends and characters in dramas. It covers almost the whole living of Chinese people. It is a psychological portrait of those people who pursuit for happiness and the bright future, moreover, it is a silhouette which vividly preserve the history in such an art form passed on by those handicraftsmen from generation to generation. It is a record of the evolution of Chinese history from which you will come to know about the traditional Chinese paper-cuttings. It will somehow unveil the ancient oriental nation to let you feel the true meaning of its 6,000-year-long history of civilization.

Paper-Cuttings in Zhongyang County, Shanxi Province

The value of Zhongyang paper-cuttings, personally, I don't think that it only limits to the value of the art itself. What's more, it lies in its cultural value.

From those paper-cuttings, we can find the ancient folk customs and traditions of Loess Plateau in the middle reaches of Yellow River. It is a historical legacy, which propelled the Chinese Nation in thousands of years. If we can distinguish the cultural characteristics of each historical period from all those cultures, just like those historians, we will astonishingly find that Xianyang paper-cutting record our nation's development, especially for its heritage of the ancient culture. For those things which are not written down but still can be reserved through legends and unearthed utensils, they are saved by Zhongyang craftsmen's scissors' points as a living fossil of our long history. Therefore, a Zhongyang paper-cutting is not only a simply paper work, but a historical monument which embodies a long and weighty history. From its works which are rooted in people, we can get the plain philosophical concepts of our ancestors about the relationships between the sky, the earth, the human beings and materials.

SOURCE : china.org.cn

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