First, please solve a riddle. "A piece of red paper is not big, and scissors are used instead of a brush to draw skillfully."
Yes, theanswer is paper-cutting. In China, paper-cutting enjoys great popularity. It is part of the life of all ethnic groups, and it is an important feature of various folk cultural activities. Its influence and vitality is also winning increasing recognition the world over. This plain thin paper can embody sincere wishes and hopes for the future. Today, please follow me and explore the “Artat Fingertips —— Chinese Paper-Cutting”.
The first thing that greets our eyes is the paper cuttings for window decoration. Farmhouses in northern China mostly have wooden lattice windows, with vertical, square or geometric lattices. It is shortly after the Chinese New Year, everyone must be familiar with the window flower, since at the Spring Festival and other festivals, people will wipe off last year’s window cuttings and put up new ones, as a way of saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new. There are also a variety of patterns, including those meant for the four corners of the window pane, round patterns for the center of any background, and more creative patterns, such as animals, flowers, plants, and human figures, as well as caricatures of operas or legends.
A clever paper-cutter with nimble fingers and a pair of scissors can cut a piece of paper into many animated auspicious window patterns.
Beyond home decorations, paper cuttings have a role to play in wedding ceremonies, where it is renamed “wedding patterns” or “wedding-flower” made with different cutting skills.
During the Spring Festival, every households' window is decorated with paper-cuttings, creating a lively festive atmosphere.
What we see next is “wedding-flower”. It is a paper-cutting pasted before wedding ceremonies on various utensils like tea sets, soap boxes, and basins, on indoor furnishings, or on the dressing mirror. They are bright red, in various shapes—round, square, rhombus, peach, pomegranate, etc. The composition and layout are more than exquisite, for example, “flowers in flowers”.
The houseand furniture have red decorative patterns, mostly a pattern of “double happiness”—two Chinese characters joined together denoting “happy”. And the patterns which surround "Xi" symbolize that the newlyweds will stick with each other till the end of their life, and enjoy good luck.
At the grand wedding ceremony, in the romantic wedding vows and the excited cheers, the wedding-flowers look as if wishing for the bride and the bridegroom to live happily ever after.
The implications of paper-cuttings are always associated with blessings, so people will give gifts topped with paper-cuts. That is called "ceremonial paper-cutting".
The ceremonial paper-cutting is attached to cakes, birthday noodles, eggs and other gifts. The themes of ceremonial flowers are mostly auspicious. For example, in Fujian, the tortoise symbolizes good luck, hence they have tortoise-shaped cakes and tortoise-shaped paper-cuttings. In rural areas, people give birthday presents with a turtle pattern which symbolizes longevity. It is named differently in different places. In Chaozhou, Guangdong, it is called “cake flower” and “fruit flower”, whereas in Pingyang, Zhejiang, it is known as “potted flower”.
The ceremonial paper-cutting, with auspicious patterns and eye-catching colors, is the art of decorating the packages of gifts, and a do-it-yourself fun activity.
Perhaps the gift we give may be the same, but the paper-cutting we each put on the package will give the gift a unique identity. We imbue the paper-cutting with heartfelt blessings for the recipient, making the gift very special.
Similarly, the plain shoes decorated with such handicraft would also attain special attraction and vitality.
The paper-cuttings for shoes are the original patterns designed for embroidered cloth shoe uppers. Broadly, they fall into three forms: the first, known as "toe flower", is a small round flower or several small flowers, to be embroidered on the toe; the second is cut into crescent shape suitable for the shape of the upper, which is called "toe flower"; the third, which extends from the ends of the toe flower onto the sides of the upper, is called "side flower". The shoe flower is usually sparselylaid out, featuring flowers, plants and birds. The craftsman embroiders it on the upper according to the pattern of shoe flower, which is lifelike and ingenious.
Paper-cuttings as shoes flowers, exquisite, poetic and creative, are the creation of laborers and artists. They encode people’s aesthetic yearning for a happy life.
In addition to the wonderfully shaped shoe flowers, on the door of each household, we can see paper-cuttings in five colors. This is the door paper-cutting, commonly known as "before the door" and "hanging money". The common people hang the door paper-cutting for good luck, good weatherand prosperity in the New Year.
The colorful paper flaps over the door, which contain profound meanings, add a festive and auspicious atmosphere to the Spring Festival and are therefore popular.
This is the door flap paper-cutting, shaped like a banner, with a large upside, wide sides, and fringes underneath, and is mostly carved out of red paper. People used to believe that it could "ward off evil spirits and praying for good luck", and would hang such flaps over the door; so it's also called "hanging paper", which implies, in Chinese, "good weather" and "full of gold and jade", which is saying goodbye to the last winter, greeting the spring and, hopefully, bringing good luck in the new year.
The multicolored paper-cutting flaps hanging in front of the hall, marking the beginning of an auspicious New Year. The flaps, though small, are the result of the painstaking efforts of paper-cutters and also record the development and changes of society.
The Chinese people will burn incense on many occasions. In the sacrificial activities, there is a kind of slender taper-shaped incense in the shape of a tower, which is called douxiang flower.
Each layer of douxiang flower has colorful engraved paper, with lots of themes, such as the eight immortals and the God of Longevity. The engravings are simple, lively and brightly-colored, very suitable for decoration.
Douxiang paper-cutting is specific in Nanjing. It is a kind of incense burned by Chinese people during the Mid-Autumn Festival worship. Its Chinese name is inspired by its tower shape. The themes of Douxianghua are varied, and they are mostly carved out of waxed paper. The design is simple but vivid, while the color is bright. In the past, it was often used in folk activities such as offering sacrifices to ancestors and gods. Now, as a local folk art in Nanjing, Douxianghua is still enjoying great popularity.
Douxiang paper-cutting is a treasure of Chinese folk art. Among the many distinctive paper-cuttings in Nanjing, the cluster flowers are quite unique. They are the earliest style, with radial or rotary decorative patterns.
As a layout format of paper-cuts, the cluster flower design is unique and flexible. It is often presented in the practical “continuously connected lines”.
As paper can be folded up to six times in the handicraft, it is especially useful in paper-cutting. The cuttings thus made can produce symmetrical flowers.
The cluster flower is another layout format of paper-cutting. It radiates outward from the center. In the making, the paper is folded three or four times. Paper-cuttings thus made are symmetrical. The four-sided uniform configuration of paper-cutting is completed through diagonal folding, displaying the beauty of symmetrical patterns. It is also the oldest form of paper-cutting unearthed so far in China. The artwork found in Xinjiang dates back to China’s Northern Dynasty(386-581 A.D.).
Chinese paper-cutting has been well-preserved and is still developing, and its recognition and popularity outside China is on the increase. We hope more and more people will get to know and love this form of art. That’s all for today’s “Art at Fingertips —— Chinese Paper-Cutting”.
See you next time!
指导老师/李萍 梁道华；产品经理/马晨馨 翁焕超 林闻杰；摄影/石宇琳林奕君宋佳玉；新闻文稿/厉嘉婕 刘钟楹 崔逸馨