The Chinese art of paper cutting
S Maison at the Conrad welcomed the Year of the Rooster with the Jianzhi - the Chinese Art of Paper Cutting exhibit at the mall’s atrium, in a program highlighted by traditional lion and dragon dances. A joint project of S Maison and Association for Philippines-China Understanding, the exhibit gives mallgoers the rare opportunity to view these elegant and exquisite art works up close.
Paper cutting or jianzhi is one of the oldest and most popular folk arts in China. Symbolizing luck and prosperity, the artworks are usually made of red paper, and used on celebrations like the Spring Festival, weddings, childbirth, and the New Year.
The art of paper cutting may date back to the second century CE since paper was invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. As paper became more affordable, paper cutting became one of the most important types of Chinese folk art.
The art of paper cutting in China can be geographically divided into a northern and southern style. The southern style, represented by the works of Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province and Leqing in Zhejiang Province, features ingenious and beautiful designs, exquisite carvings, and interesting shapes. The northern style, on the other hand, mainly from Yuxian and Fengning in Hebei province, highlights exaggerated shapes, vigorousness, vivid depictions, and diverse patterns.
During the Tang Dynasty, the skills of this handcraft became more mature, becoming more like a work of art. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1912), folk paper cutting reached its peak development in both range and artistry. Paper cuts were part of a leisure activity especially among women, who passed on this traditional art style to their children, and were used to decorate doors, windows, and walls as a symbol of happiness and celebration.
Chinese paper cut continues to thrive to this day. It recently received worldwide recognition of the highest prestige, with inclusion in the representative list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The values, ideals, and aesthetic pursuits of Chinese people from different ethnic backgrounds are embedded and preserved in the imagery that paper-cuts depict, conveying the elements of folk legends, literature and history.
The art form has spread to other parts of the world, with different regions adopting their own cultural styles including the Philippines.
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