Chinese Paper Cutting

The attraction of the traditional Chinese folk art of papercutting may lie in its apparent simplicity: a typical papercut requires no paints or brushes, only an ordinary pair of scissors or a knife, and a single sheet of paper. As the use of paper became well established throughout China, this art form came into being and has since enjoyed more than 1.500 years of popularity. Outstanding among Chinese folk arts, papercutting's influence in other fields and the number and variety of its products reveal the depth of its roots in popular culture as a means of beautifying the everyday environment of the broad masses of the Chinese people.

Papercuts can be seen everywhere in China. In many large cities one can find handicraft shops which sell papercuts characteristic of their area, usually rather delicate in design and made by local artisans from workshops or small factories. In smaller cities or market towns it is easy to find old women displaying every variety of papercut in their round bamboo baskets, cutting as they sell. These women specialize in making stencils for people to follow in embroidering shoes, children's hats and aprons.

In the countryside, particularly in some of the northern provinces, colorful papercut "window flowers" cover the white paper that the peasants paste over the latticework on their windows. These "window flowers" tell traditional folk tales, depict popular characters from operas or plays, or portray mythical birds and beasts side by side with cuts of the well loved domestic animals, flowers and plants from the peasant's immediate surroundings. These are the works of the peasantsthemselves, mainly at the hands of older peasant women or young girls, and seem to be windows into the hearts of the people, revealing to us their hopes and sense of beauty, and reflecting the sincerity of their feelings for life.

With its roots in the lives of the common people, the art of papercutting has a country charm, which is both simple and honest. Currently in China, however, papercuts are not only a popular art form, but have also attracted the attention of professional artists, who use these themes ofeveryday life to enrich their own work. At the same time, these artists promote the development of folk papercuts, increasing the variety of themes, and broadening the range of applications for papercutting. We can see the effects of the use of papercuts not only in paintings, literary illustrations, comic books, book layout and design, stamps, slides, stage sets, frontispieces and endpieces for magazines, etc., but also in the art of movie making, where vivid papercut cartoons bring a new spirit of youth and vigor to the art of papercutting as a whole.

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