Oct 23, 2013

In 2009, The Chinese paper cut was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.


Chinese paper cuts are rich in content. The auspicious designs symbolize good luck and the avoidance of evil. The child, lotus and bottle gourd designs suggest a family with a large number of children and grandchildren. Domestic birds, livestock, fruit, fish and worms are also familiar objects depicted by Chinese farmers in paper cuts.

paper cuts are mainly used as decorations and patterns for religious and ornamental purposes. paper cuts can also be used as ornaments on gates, windows, walls, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns. They are still widely used today at important festivals, especially during the New Year. It is very important to put paper cuts on the entrance gates for good luck for the family. paper cuts can also serve as presents or as decorations or gifts and sacrificial offerings to the ancestors or gods.

Paper and scissors are the usual materials used for making paper cuts, but sometimes an engraving knife is also used. paper cuts are all hand-made. There are two common ways to make paper cuts. One method uses scissors, and the other, a knife.

Major Types

paper cuts made in different areas have different characteristics.

Shanxi window paper cuts are simple and bold. Guangling paper cuts from Shanxi Provinceare painted with many colors and portray opera figures. TheNanjingpaper cuts ofJiangsu Provinceare simple, robust and skillful. The Yixing paper cuts of Jiangxi Provinceare magnificent and neat. The Nantong paper cuts of Jiangsu Province are delicate and beautiful. TheFoshanpaper cuts of Guangdong Provinceare colorful and decorative and utilize a variety of production techniques. The Gaomi paper cuts of Shandong Provinceare delicate and fine.

Ⅰ. paper cuts in Wei County

Declarer:Wei County,Hebei Province

Wei County paper cuts from Hebei Province have a history of more than 200 years. The paper cuts are dyed and therefore more colorful. They feature themes of opera figures, legendary stories, harvesting, auspicious animals, happiness, and longevity.

Ⅱ. paper cuts of the Fengning Manchu Minority

Declarer:Fengning Manchu Autonomous County, Hebei Province

Fengning County is hidden in the depths of the Yanshan Mountains in northern Hebei Province. The paper cuts in Fengning originated in theQing Dynasty(1644-1911), mainly featuring auspicious patterns, flowers and birds, landscapes, human figures, and daily utensils.

Ⅲ. Zhongyang paper cuts

Declarer:Zhongyang County, Shanxi Province

Zhongyang County is located in the middle reaches of theYellow River. The paper cuts in this area are still primitively simplistic and have a unique local flavor. The subject matter ranges from customs and religion to seasonal landscapes, life rituals, and legendary stories. The paper cuts are primarily made by local village women.

Ⅳ. Manchu paper cuts in Yiwu Lushan

Declarer:Jinzhou City,Liaoning Province

Manchu paper cuts of Yiwu Lushan reflect the primitive worship of natural gods, ancestral gods and phallism, as well as the folk customs of the Manchu ethnic group. The art features simplicity, sententiousness, and primitivism.

Ⅴ.Yangzhoupaper cuts

Declarer:Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province

During theTang Dynasty(618-907), Yangzhou people had a custom of welcoming theSpring Festivalby making paper cuts. On the day of Spring Beginning, people would cut paper into floral, spring butterfly, spring coin and spring handkerchief patterns. There are also other purposes for paper cuts. The cut paper characters, horses and coins, are used to sacrifice ghosts and gods.

In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, Yangzhou paper cuts enhanced the decorative features combining appreciation and usage together. It can be used both as decoration for women and children, sample patterns for embroidery, a model for cutting shoe decorations, pillow decorations, table cloth decorations and bed sheet decorations. It can be used for ceremonial decorations in the folk customs like festival patterns, happy ceremony patterns, door laces, light decorations and dragon boat decorations. Folk paper cut craftsmen cut various patterns for wealth and good luck with a knife and some Xuan paper.

Yangzhou paper cuts are delicate in shape with thin, flowing lines. An experienced folk artist can clip out a flower, bird or beast with a lifelike reality in just a few minutes, using just a pair of scissors and a piece of blank paper.

Ⅵ. Thin Line paper cuts in Yueqing

Declarer:Yueqing City,Zhejiang Province

Thin line paper-cuts, a distinctive genre of Chinese paper cuts, originated from Yueqing, Zhejiang Province. Different from the plain and bold northern style, Yueqing thin line paper-cuts feature a delicate and exquisite style and a rich southern Chinese charm.

This paper-cut style has a history of some 700 years. It first appeared in theYuan Dynasty(1271-1368) as decorations on dragon lanterns duringlantern festivalcelebrations. As colored lanterns emerged and were widely used, the thin line paper-cut was further developed.

The dragon boat lantern is a local unique Yueqing craft. Dragon lantern celebrations are held in every village during the Chinese spring festival. Dragon lanterns of various styles are hung on dragon boats to ward off evil and pray for blessings. Aside from lanterns, thin line paper cuts in different patterns also appear on dragon boats. Competitions are also held to select the best dragon boat lanterns. The key criterion is whether the thin line paper cuts on a dragon boat are exquisitely made. Craftsmen pay attention to not only the delicateness of the paper cuts but also the diversity of their patterns. . After years of development, thin line paper cuts now feature various patterns, including flowers, birds and beasts, theatrical figures, legends and landscapes.

The thin line paper cut requires soft, thin paper. Artists engrave patterns and figures on soft paper with a steel knife. Usually, four knives with different blazes are needed to complete any artwork. Artists usually polish knives by themselves so that they can come up with their own techniques and strengths. As 10 to 20 pieces of paper are usually pressed together before being cut, the knives must be sharp.

An ox fat plate is also needed for paper cuts. Pine fat and ox fat are battered and boiled. Then the mix is poured on a 30 x 35 cm wooden plate and baked in the sun.

Patterns are sketched on the paper before it is cut. . In the past, moistened paper was stuck to the sample and smoked by coal oil light. When the paper dried, the pattern would appear. But such an approach did not produce a good effect, because the black smoke blurred the pattern. Now artists use a chemical solvent. They paste it on a piece of white paper and put a painted piece of paper on it. They then place a piece of glass on the paper and put it out in the sunshine. Using this method, the patterns are much clearer.

Ⅶ. paper cuts in Guangdong

Declarer:Foshan, Shantou andChaozhouCities in Guangdong Province

There were already paper cut professionals in Foshan in theMing Dynasty(1368-1644). By the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), guilds had been set up in Foshan to produce paper cuts. According to records, by the early 20th century, there were several hundred workshops with about 3,000 artisans related to the paper cut industry. The paper produced by them was the material source for paper cuts.

According to its raw materials and production methods, Foshan paper-cuts are divided into copper lining, paper lining, copper writing, silver writing, woodcut, and copper chiseling categories, etc. The copper lining material, copper painting material and copper carving material are most typical. Local copper foil and silver foil are used for cutting, carving and chiseling, and are lined with various color paper and printed with various patterns to create southern style paper cuts. Foshan paper cuts are both delicate and bold, and different materials are selected according to different demands.

In ancient times, the paper cuts were mainly used as decorations for festival gifts, sacrificial ceremonies, embroidery patterns, and product trademarks.

The artist uses a cutting knife to carve pictures on the copper lining material, which may also be lined with colored paper according to the demands of the design. The copper lining material is for the cutting knife to carve picture lines and structure on the copper foil, which is lined with color paper according to the demand of design. The copper writing material is for the combination of painting and paper-cut, first carving the outline on the copper foil with cutting knife before painting with color foundation mixed with glue. The copper carving material is nearly the same with the copper writing material, where the picture or figure outline is chiseled out with a special chisel, with the outline like a chain of pearls that are not connected but painted with powder colors.

Most of the subjects of Foshan paper cuts are things working people like, such as lucky flowers, birds, fish and animals, and the favorite opera figures and folk stories, such as dragons, pheonixes, carp, peacocks, fruits, fortune and longevity. The copper carving materials are usually pink, rose color, blue and red-white, are harmonious and striking. The colors of copper lining materials are mainly the orange, pink, aquamarine, mustard yellow, purple, deep green and Cambridge blue and the pictures are striking and harmonious.

The colorful folk customs in Foshan have promoted the development of paper cuts, and the development of paper cut arts contribute to local Foshan folk customs.

Ⅷ. paper cuts of the Dai Minority

Declarer:Luxi City,Yunnan Province

The paper cuts of the Dai Minority are mainly prevalent in the Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan. Their origins can be traced back to the paper flags used in primitive sacrificial rituals. After hundreds of years of development, the paper cuts are now used for sacrifices, to pray to Buddha, funerals, weddings and festivals, and home decorations. The contents vary from auspicious animals such as dragons and phoenixes, peacocks, elephants, and lions, to flowers like water lilies, roses, chrysanthemums, camellias, and cuckoos, to pavilions and temples as well as pagodas.

Ⅸ. Ansai paper cuts

Declarer:Ansai County, Shaanxi Province

Ansai County paper cuts are a beautiful things created by common women in the northern part of Shaanxi Province. Their paper cuts reflect their lives that are full of love, sadness and happiness. Ansai paper cuts have many forms and include almost everything in nature. In 1993, Ansai County was named the 'Home of the paper cut.'

In Ansai paper cuts are made using common scissors and the women who make them are so talented that they can cut the paper into any shape they can imagine. Before a festival or wedding, the women gather to cut paper to decorate the room.

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