Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chinese Paper Cutting 剪纸

by ShaoLan

Look at the detail! My eyes would go square!

When I was a child, one of my favorite things to do was 剪纸 (Chinese Paper Cutting). You might be familiar with cutting out paper snowflakes or other simple designs as a child in school. The process is rather simple; one simply folds a sheet of paper in half and then cuts designs into the crease. When the paper unfolds, a perfectly symmetrical design is revealed. I love how a few simple cuts can create such beautiful and complex design.

Traditional Chinese Paper Art is a lot more complicated than the simple snowflake patters we all made in school. The artists use incredible sharp knives, not scissors, to make the incisions and the designs are incredibly complex. Traditionally, the compositions are symmetrical, though they can be asymetrical, and red paper is used. You may already know that red is a very lucky color in Chinese culture. Red represents fire (火), which is associated with happiness and good luck. You’ll see the color red everywhere during holidays or festivals, especially at Chinese New Year!

Did you know that the oldest example of a Chinese paper-cutting is a circle that dates back to the 6th century? It’s no surprise that the Chinese were the first to develop this art form because, after all, they were the first to invent paper! 蔡倫 (Cai Lun, ca. 50 AD – 121) is the man credited with the invention of paper. Paper certainly existed before Cai Lun came along, but the process of making paper began under his influence. If you want to read more on 蔡倫 (Cai Lun), you can check out his wiki page here: http://bit.ly/17CnG0y.

Today, Chinese Paper Cutting is still a popular art form. Cuttings can be used as decorations in a home or for festivals, as embroidery patterns, as offerings to ancestors or gods, and also as gifts. One example is a paper-cut featuring the Chinese character 囍, which doubles the character happiness (喜). Paper-cuts with this design are traditionally used for decorations or given as gifts at weddings. The double symmetry of the character, along with its positive meaning, makes it a perfect match for the papercutting art form where symmetry is traditionally valued.

If you want to read and see more about the different styles of Chinese Paper Cutting, I found this beautiful website with great explanations, pictures of paper-cut designs, and even a DIY section so you can create your own 囍 paper-cut design. Enjoy! http://bit.ly/19Q8s95