Saturday, February 15, 2014

Holiday Paper Decor

Christmas decorations are ubiquitous in Jinan, China; not restricted to the traditional western holiday season. 'Twas interesting to see fully decorated Xmas trees year-round in restaurants and hotel lobbies.  Colorful paper Santa's often decorated walls and windows all year.  Red paper and silk lanterns are ever-present though out China.  Speaking of paper…intricate, beautiful red paper cuttings are hung on walls and windows all over during China during the high holiday Spring Festival/Chinese New Year season. And unlike Xmas lights in the West, they don't necessarily come down right after the festival season are over.

One of my students gave an interesting report on Chinese Paper Cutting. The intricacy of these creations is absolutely amazing. And the designs are just random creations; there is lots of meaning and tradition in the images. I'll let Silver tell you more about it:
          Chinese paper cutting or Jianzhi is the first type of paper cutting design, since paper was invented by Cai Lun in the Easter Han Dynasty in China. It has a history of more than 1500 years and it represent cultural values of the people throughout China.
           The oldest surviving paper cut out is a symmetrical circle from the 6th century found in Xinjiang, China. The art spread to the rest of the world in the 14th century.  Throughout the Qing Dynasty many paper cutting skills were developed including drafting and the use of smoked papers. By the end of the Qing rule however, new art forms were being introduced. The Republic of China later tried to revive the art in the 1980's.  
          In the rural countryside in mainland China, paper cutting is a traditionally female activity. In the past, every girl was expected to master it and brides were often judged by their skill.

          There are basic cut outs that are a single image And there are symmetrical designs that are usually created by some folding over a proportioned crease, and then cutting some shape.  WHen unfolded, it forms a symmetrical design. Chinese paper cuttings are normally symmetrical.
          Because the cut outs are also used to decorate does and windows, they are sometimes referred to as "chuang hua" meaning Window Flower. Today, paper cuttings are chiefly decorative. They ornament walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns in homes and are also used on presents or are given as gifts themselves. Entrances decorated with paper cutouts are supposed to bring good luck. Paper cuttings used to be used as patterns, especially for embroidery and lacquer work.

          In Chinese culture it can reflect many aspects of life such as property, health or harvest. Some cuttings represent stories about the happiness gained from the accomplishment of common goals. 
          There are two methods of manufacture: one uses scissors, the other uses knives. 
          There is a saying in China that means  something left over year after year. The last Chinese symbol of this phrase is homophonic with the word fish in Chinese. When Spring Festival comes, most families buy Chinese paper cutting in the shape of fish and paste it on the door.
          In conclusion, Chinese paper cutting implies the great charm of Chinese culture and it is also a precious possession that should remain forever.