Paper cutting can be dated back to the 6th century when Cai Lan invented paper. From the 7th to 13th century, paper cutting became popular especially during Chinese festivals. The art spread to the rest of the world in the 14th century.
In rural areas, paper cutting is traditionally a handicraft for women. In the past, every girl was supposed to master it and brides were often judged by their skills. Professional paper cutting artists are, on the other hand, usually males who earned guaranteed incomes by working in workshops.
The Chinese have developed paper-cutting into a beautiful and intricate art called chien-chih. The most sophisticated patterns take an incredible amount of skill to cut, and may take months to complete. The paper-cuts are usually created with very thin red paper using many traditional designs.
Paper cuttings were mainly used in regional rituals, decorations and styling. In the past, paper was cut into images of people or things such as money and clothes, which were buried with the dead or burned at funerals. This is a superstition that these things burned or buried would accompany the dead in another world. Paper cuttings were also used to decorate sacrifices.
Paper-cuts are also used as decorations, and as patterns, especially for embroidery and lacquer wares. They can also be put on walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns in homes. Chinese people believe that the red paper-cuts on the door can bring good luck and happiness to the whole family. The paper-cuts are more often seen during traditional Chinese festivals, particularly in Chinese New Year, the Spring Festival. They are also given as presents or gifts to good friends or other family members. In Chinese traditional culture, paper-cuts can reflect many aspects of life such as prosperity, health, or harvest.
福 During the Spring Festival, the character “ Fu” is pasted upside down on the door to express people’s wish for the coming of happiness.
囍 When a man and woman get married, the red paper-cuts with the character “Xi” is a traditional decoration. It is believed that this paper-cut will bring the new couple happiness.
寿 At a birthday party of an older person, paper-cuts with the character “Shou” are often seen.
At the Welcome Centre, we’ve learned how to cut the simple fu and double happiness versions at the bottom of the page – thank you to our Chinese community members for helping us…