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Chinese Craft - Chinese paper-cut

Chinese paper-cutting is a kind of folk art that uses scissors or carving knives to cut patterns on paper to decorate life or cooperate with other folk activities. In China, paper-cutting has a broad mass base, blends into the social life of people of all ethnic groups, and is an important part of various folk activities. Its continuous visual image and modeling format contains a wealth of cultural and historical information and expresses the social cognition, moral concepts, practical experience, life ideals, and aesthetic tastes of the general public. It has cognition, enlightenment, expression, lyricism, Multiple social values ​​such as entertainment and communication.
On May 20, 2006, the paper-cut art heritage was approved by the State Council to be included in the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage lists.  In December 2018, the General Office of the Ministry of Education announced the announcement of Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics as a base for the inheritance of Chinese paper-cut Chinese excellent traditional culture.


Pre Tang Dynasty

Paper was invented in the Western Han Dynasty BC (6th century BC). The art of paper-cutting couldn’t appear before this. However, at that time, people used thin-sheet materials to make handicrafts through hollow-out carving techniques. When paper appeared, it was already popular, that is, cutting patterns on gold leaf, leather, silk, and even leaves with the techniques of carving, engraving, cutting, carving, and cutting. ” Historical Records ” in the shear Tong Feng brother chronicles the early Western Zhou Dynasty Zhou Wang with parasol trees cut “Kyu” thanks to his brother, to seal Ji Yu Tang Hou. In the Warring States Period, there were leather cuts ( one of the cultural relics unearthed from the Tomb of Chu, Jiangling Wangshan, Hubei ), and silver foil cuts (one of the cultural relics unearthed from the Warring States Relics of Guwei Village, Hui County, Henan ). Withdrawal, their appearance has laid a certain foundation for the formation of folk paper-cutting.
In the ” Mulan Ci ” during the Southern and Northern Dynasties, there is a verse of “applied yellow on the mirror”. The earliest discovery of paper-cutting works in China is the five paper-cutting flowers of the Northern Dynasty (386-581 AD) unearthed near Huoyan Mountain in Turpan, Xinjiang. These paper cuts adopt the method of repeated folding and the processing method that does not obscure each other’s image.

Tang Dynasty

Paper-cut in the Tang Dynasty period of great development, Du Fu, ” Peng Ya-line ” poem “I wash my feet warm soup, paper scissors move my soul,” the sentence to a paper-cut evocation of folk custom of the time was spread. The Tang Dynasty paper-cuts now in the British Museum can be seen at that time that the art of paper-cutting was extremely high, and the composition of the picture was complete, expressing an ideal state of heaven and earth. Jie was popular in the Tang Dynasty, and its carved wood pattern has the characteristics of paper-cutting. For example, the “Pairing Sheep” in Shōkurain, Japan, whose pattern of sheep is typical art of paper-cutting. In the Tang Dynasty, there were also illegible printing plates made in the form of paper-cutting. People used thick paper to engrave into a pattern, and the dye was printed on the cloth to form a beautiful pattern. Besides, paper cuts of the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties were also unearthed in Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes. For example, “Shuanglu Pagoda”, “Group of Pagodas and Deer”, and “Stupa” belong to the category of “Gongde Flower Paper”, which are mainly used for offerings. Buddha statues decorate halls and temples. The composition of the picture is complex with specific content. Besides, there are hollow paper-cuts of ink paintings such as “Standing Bodhisattva Statue” and “Standing Bodhisattva Statue with Banner”, which are works that combine paper-cutting and painting.

Song Dynasty

During the Southern Song Dynasty, there have been professional artists who specialized in paper-cutting. According to the Song Dynasty’s Zhou Mi’s “Wulin History”, there were hundreds of “small economies” in Hangzhou at this time. Among them, there are special “cutting patterns”, some are good at cutting “Zhujiashuzi”, and some specializing are “various patterns”.
The paper industry in the Song Dynasty was mature, with a wide variety of paper products, which provided conditions for the popularization of paper-cutting. Such as “fireworks” used as folk gifts, “windows” posted on windows, or used for decoration of lanterns and teacups. The scope of application of the Song Dynasty folk paper-cut gradually expanded, Jiangxi Jizhou kiln will be as a paper-cut ceramic pattern by glazing, firing the ceramic more attractive; folk also take the form of paper cutting, donkeys, cattle, horses, sheep, and other animal skin, Carved into the figure of a shadow play; the engraved pattern made by the blue calico process is carved with oiled cardboard, and the pattern of the squeegee printing adopts the technique of paper-cutting. There are yin and yang engravings, and the long lines must be cut. To divide the virtual and the real.

Ming and Qing

The art of paper-cutting in the Ming and Qing Dynasties matured and reached its heyday. Folk paper-cutting art has a wider application range, such as floral decorations on folk lanterns, patterns on fans, and embroidery patterns, etc., all of which are reprocessed by using paper-cutting as decoration. But more often is Chinese folk paper-cut as decorative home accessories, beautify the home environment, such as gate stacks, grilles, cabinets flowers, happy flowers, flowers are used to decorate the roof windows, paper cutting room.
Although the art of paper-cutting came from the folks, it had become a national art in the Qing Dynasty, and even the relatives of the emperor at that time could not do without paper-cutting. Kunming Palace in the Forbidden City of Beijing was the anthurium bridal chamber when the emperor of the Qing Dynasty got married. The papers on the front and back windows of the palace are all pasted on the outside. The walls are pasted with paper, the four corners are pasted with black “囍” paper-cut corner flowers, and the center of the ceiling is a black dragon and phoenix flower-cut paper. Paper cuts are also posted on the walls of the aisles on both sides of the palace. From the perspective of the patterns, materials, and colors of the paper cuts, compared with the ceiling flowers and wallflowers of ordinary farmhouses, there is basically no difference except that the paper-cut patterns are slightly larger.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the “May 4th” New Cultural Movement, initiated by advanced intellectuals such as Cai Yuanpei, Lu Xun, Liu Bannong, and Zhou Zuoren, established the embryonic form of Chinese folklore. They extensively collect folk literature materials but also work hard to collect folk artworks, including folk paper-cutting. In the 1930s, the artist Chen Zhinong started the research and creation of folk paper-cutting in Beijing. He used sketches and silhouettes to depict a large number of customs in old Beijing, such as street vendors, workshop craftsmen, food stalls and tea picks, fairs, fairs, and idlers in the market.
In the 1940s, paper cuts based on real-life began to appear. In 1942, Mao Zedong’s “Speech at the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art” pointed out the literary policy of “literary and artistic services for workers, peasants, and soldiers.” Since then, Yan’an Luyi artists Chen Shuliang, Zhang Ding, Liqun, Gu Yuan, Xia Feng, and others began to learn the local folk paper-cutting with a deep mass foundation, collecting, discovering, sorting and researching folk paper-cutting, and creating A large number of new paper-cuts reflecting the production, life, and fighting of the people in the border areas. The works used folk traditional styles and described the new content of the Anti-Japanese War and border area construction. It promoted the creation and development of mass paper-cutting and revolutionized traditional folk paper-cutting. In 1944, the new folk paper-cutting works of the northwestern region were exhibited for the first time in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region, which opened the curtain for the development of paper-cutting art after the founding of New China. It can be said that the paper-cutting in Yan’an ushered in a new era of paper-cutting in China.
After the founding of New China, under the guidance of the literary and artistic policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom, bringing forth the new from the old”, artists created a large number of new paper-cuts representing new socialist people and new things, opening up the path of paper-cutting creation and enriching the form and content of Chinese folk decorative art. . In the creation of new paper-cuts, in addition to paper-cuts that express the new atmosphere of various industries, children, sports, acrobatics, singing, and dancing have also become the most common themes of paper-cuts.
Since its birth, the art of paper-cutting has never been interrupted in Chinese history. It is enriched in various folk activities and is one of the richest artistic forms of Chinese folk history and culture.

Use form

From the specific use, it can be roughly divided into four categories:
1. For posting, that is, directly posting on doors, windows, walls, lights, and colored bars for decoration. Such as window grilles, wallflowers, ceiling flowers, smoke lattices, lantern flowers, paper tie flowers, door papers;
2. It is used for lining, that is, it is used to embellish gifts, dowry, sacrifices, and offerings. Such as happy flowers, offering flowers, fireworks, candlestick flowers, Douxiang flowers, Chongyang flag;
3. Embroidery pattern for clothing, shoes, hats, and pillows. Such as shoe flower, pillow flower, hat flower, bib flower, sleeve flower, strap flower ;
4. For printing and dyeing, that is, as a printing plate for blue printed cloth, used for clothing, quilts, curtains, furnishings, bibs, headscarves, etc.
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