Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day

Traditional Arts - Chinese Paper Cutting
Valentine's Day reminds us of love, romance and weddings. I could list the number of weddings I've attended on two hands, but have been lucky enough to attend a mix traditional, modern, religious, cross cultural and registry office weddings.
Most recently was a semi traditional Chinese wedding in Hong Kong. Amongst the many ceremonies and dresses (there were four!) were a number of unassuming but culturally important paper cuts. I was awestruck by the wonderful paper decorations that adorned each of the ceremonies, so delicate and detailed and amazing to think these traditional designs have lasted centuries along with the art of cutting the images onto paper. 
This was the first time I had seen authentic Chinese paper cuts. We made snowflakes at Christmas and paperchain men out of newspapers regularly during my childhood, but this was the first time I was really able to appreciate the skill of a professional paper cutter.
The art of paper cutting peaked in popularity between 1368 and 1911 and was at one point was seen an essential skill for a girl to be considered marriage material. Paper had been invented by the Chinese some 1200 years earlier but was reserved for the emperor for many decades. When production methods improved and paper became more affordable, paper cutters started making paper cuts as offerings to family ancestors and then as decorations for the home and good luck charms at ceremonies like weddings and Chinese New Year. Crafters had previously practiced on thin silk and gold leaf as well as tree leaves.
Next time before you recycle your newspaper you could practice your paper cutting skills, a snowflake, a paper chain of people or maybe some Chinese inspired designs. 

Guest author - Claire of Bluegiraffeshop


  1. I love Chinese paper cuts. I've got a couple of books on them and it's fascinating the amount of detail they manage to put into them.

  2. beautiful and intricate designs

  3. It's very cool to learn about different ways paper is used artistically. Great article!

  4. This is so cool and so pretty!

  5. This has been such an interesting read! Thanks Claire! This is all new to me, and I really enjoyed reading the history behind it. They are amazingly beautiful pieces of art. Quite stunning.

  6. Thank you for sharing the Chinese paper art with us. It is very interesting. It's been a long time since I made people or snowflakes. I learned a little bit about this when studying art history.


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