A study of Chinese Paper Cutting the modern way

Chinese Girl Picking Apples Detailed View

Here at silhouettes.co.uk we are passionate about anything related to paper cutting, so when we found about the ancient art of Chinese paper cutting, we were excited to find out more and create our very own silhouettes with inspiration taken of this exquisite ancient art.

Chinese Girl Picking Apples - Chinese paper cutting
Picking Apples

Although paper cutting sounds like a simple hobby, it is in fact a complex art, displaying both intricate precision cutting and artistic talents.

In those days, there was no help of precision cutting machinery and the tools used were very basic.

Exactly when the art form of paper cutting was first developed is difficult to say or establish, but  believed that as soon as the development of cutting animal skins were developed, the art of cutting was born with paper cutting and shadow play-cutting being derived from this skill.

Paper cutting started as an art form among the poorest within the Chinese society as it was the cheapest form of decoration. Used to decorate both the very large, such as buildings and the very small, such as cakes and the like.

As with any types of art, some were excellent masterpieces, whereas others were basic childlike cuttings.

It was typically the Chinese women who excelled and as stated above, more likely practiced by the poor, who were unable to afford fancy tools.

As with any folk art, the popularity of Chinese paper cuts had its ups and downs, with popularity varying in different regions of the Chinese Empire.

During the T’Ang dynasty it is believed that women who both had the skills of paper cutting and embroidery, where more likely to gain the respect of her family in law, and find true love.

The motifs used to paper cut were passed on from generation to generation, and it is from these same motifs, that we have also taken inspiration to create our modern take on the art of Chinese paper cutting.

The themes used vary from landscapes to people to animals and the mythical, but often have a  symbolic meaning as listed below.

Subject Meaning
Chi-lin (a mythical animal) Fertility and birth
Lotus flower Fertility and birth
Pomegranate Fertility and birth
Pig Fertility and birth
Peach Longevity
Pine Longevity / Spirit of Man
Bamboo Spirit of Man
Plum Spirit of Man
Chrysanthemum Spirit of Man
Yuan-Yuang (the duck and drake) Fidelity in marriage
Lion Courage, power and strength
Tiger Courage, power and strength
Fish (Excess of) Wealth
Female with Broom Reduce or stop excessive rainfall
Cockerel (Rooster) Honesty

Chinese paper cutting was not only used to impress the in-laws, decorate your home or sell to tourists, they were also used as part of shadow plays, the early predecessor of puppet shows.

Intricate paper cuts for Chinese paper cutting

Intricate paper cuts usually attached to sticks to create wonderful displays and shows of storytelling. The paper puts were placed behind a bright light to create shadows and moved skilfully to create different effects whilst the story developed.

It is even believed that paper-cuts were used voodoo subjects. The life-like images of enemies and mistresses cut by superstitious women and stabbed, believing this would lead to ill health or death of the rival.

The type and colours of papers used for traditional Chinese paper-cuts believed to have been predominantly red. Red being the symbol of grandeur, royalty, life, joy and light, that could brighten up the home and express the joy of the paper-cut subject.

We hope this small article has shed some light on this ancient art and our own paper-cut inspired images do the ancient Chinese Paper Cut Art justice.

Why not consider buying a ready cut display piece for your home or restaurant from our store?

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