Paper-cutting is one of China's most popular folk arts. Archaeological finds trace the tradition back to the 6th century; it is supposed that the beginning of paper-cutting is even a few centuries earlier. Paper-cuttings are used for religious purposes, for decoration and as patterns.
In Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, almost every home is decorated with paper-cuts on the windows and doors. They also ornament walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns in homes and are used for decoration on presents or are given as presents themselves.
They have special significance at festivals and on holidays. To get rid of the old and bring good luck, every household puts up papercuts on the newly plastered window paper on the eve of Spring Festival.
Chinese farmers still have the tradition of arranging farm production according to the lunar calendar. They number the years with twelve symbolic animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar. So the paper-cuts of the twelve animals are indispensable.
Paper-cuttings also used to be used as patterns, especially for embroidery and lacquer work.
Paper-cuttings are not produced by machine, but by hand. Paper-cuts are done all over China, but are different in the method in different areas. There are two methods of making paper-cuts: scissors cuttings and knife cuttings. As the name indicates, scissors cuttings are fashioned with scissors. Several pieces of paper--up to eight pieces--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 he usually holds vertically. The advantage of knife cuttings is that considerably more paper-cuttings can be made in one operation than with scissor cuttings.
Before, paper-cuts are usually made only by women and girls. They use scissors and paper to cut all kinds of pictures such as pomegranates, lotuses, peach blossoms, mice, fighting roosters and rabbits eating carrots.
This used to be one of the crafts that every girl was to master and that were often used to judge brides. Professional paper-cutting artists are, on the other hand, almost always men who have guaranteed incomes and work together in workshops.
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