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Paper-cuts of Yan-an

Yan-an, situated in northern Shaan-xi, is dry and cold in winter. On New Year's Eve when old papers on farmhouse windows are replaced with new sheets, paper-cuts are pasted between the lattice strips for decoration. Viewing from indoors, they cast a soft, bright silhouette, adding joyous color to the event.

A significant part of Yanan paper-cuts is about multiplication. Shaan people consider chicken, fish and the character good luck to be phallic symbols; lotus flower, peony, or a diamonds-shaped hole represent the vulva; pomegranates, gourds, pumpkins and lotus flower bearing seeds symbolize pregnancy. The combined images imply an intimate relationship. Carp circling lazily in lotus ponds, lion wrestling with silk tassel balls, or hawk catching a rabbit, all serve as metaphors for the act of lovemaking. A coveting rat and a large pumpkin describe both a lover's shyness and boldness. The most universal and oldest subject matter of these paper-cuts are girls and boys, who are considered a procreative symbol. A traditional pattern The girl with wispy buns, for example, depicts a little girl in standing position with arms raised, holding a chicken, a masculine symbol, in one hand and a rabbit, a feminine symbol, in the other hand. When pasted on windows, doors and walls, she expresses an expectation of new generation.

The equipment for Yanan paper-cut is simple, a pair of scissors and a sheet of colored rice paper. A design is drawn in pencil. The sketch is then pinned to the paper and ready to be cut. Most Yanan paper-cuts are monochromatic. The expression is romantic, innocent and bold. Flowers may be found on man's face, or a little bird may appear on man's chest. The artists are common farm wives and girls. Many of them are still financially destitute, but in the world of their artistic creations, they are the goddesses. Owing to these Shaan mothers and aunts that the basic puzzles of the life from remotest ancestors reaches us today.

Paper cut

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