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Chinese Papercuts

Chinese Papercuts

In a culture that invented most flexible, versatile and adaptable of materials - paper back in the 1st century AD (Cai Lun, during the Han Dynasty), Chinese paper cut arts have existed for thousands of years with a long and rich history. The earliest paper cut can be traced back to the Northern and Southern Dynasties (A.D. 386-581). Paper cutting grew most popular during the period of Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911) and hence many techniques were developed such as drafting and the use of smoked paper.

Certain criteria such as cutting skills, quality of paper, carving form, and dulcet composition can be applied to judge the quality of the paper cut art work. Scissors and knives are the most often used tools for paper cut art work. Skilled crafters can often cut out different design patterns freely by a pair of scissors. The common design patterns are animals, flowers, and figures which reflect many aspects of life such as prosperity, health, happiness, etc. The paper cut art work served decorative purposes in many occasions - holiday, wedding, festivals, and especially Chinese New Year, when delicate designed paper cuts in vivid colors are pasted on walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns, etc. Paper cuts are also made great gifts to friends and your loved ones.

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As a graphic engraving art, Chinese paper cut shows an outstanding shaping technique and its distinct philosophic vocabulary. The expressive and elaborate lines integrated with structure and exquisite handicraft are truly an amazing art form. Chinese paper cut has now grown into unique and popular art articles in presenting decorating, collecting and appreciating in both eastern and western culture.

The Making of a Paper cut

1. Design of the pattern: The artists first make their design on the paper cut material usually rice paper. The composition of the presentations is important. They usually try to avoid large blocks of black or white and capture the figures that are rich in content with decorative details.

2. The cutting work: The artists put single or many pieces of papers together and cut or carve them by scissors or knife. Professional sometimes use engraving knives to engrave the desired shapes onto a wax board, then place this mould onto stacks of paper to cut out the shapes.

3. Finish up: When the paper shapes have been fixed onto the artwork, additional patterns can be added by the artists' design. Sometime several interlocking pieces of paper are used to form an art piece. Artists may use different color of papers in the art work or paint the art work after the cutting is done. There are many different techniques for painting paper cut such as parallel dyeing, touching dyeing, halo dyeing, water dyeing, wipe dyeing, chromatically dyeing, mist dyeing etc..
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Chinese Papercut Books

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