Paper cut is popular in China. On New Year's Eve auspicious patterns are pasted on windows and doors. On wedding day bridal chamber is decorated with double happiness characters. On the Dragon Boat Festival, which comes on the fifth day of the fifth moon, when according to legend five poisonous animals wake from hibernation, the images of beasts of prey are pasted on gates for protection. On Memorial Day paper clothes are burnt to honor the memory of ancestors. On the Double Ninth Festival all sorts of paper banners are hung over the streets. Other frequent uses are master copy for embroider and decoration for many occasions.
The earliest examples of paper cuts are several round patterns of animals and plants found in a fifth century grave in northeast Gobi desert. For a long period the craft is believed to be mainly associated with sacrificial activities. The modern custom of paper cut finalized during Ming period. There are three schools in the art of paper cut, Northern, Eastern and Southern School. Each owns a handful celebrated branches.
Paper-cuts of Yan-an
- Scissors (surgical scissors)
- Rice paper
- Needle and thread
- Dye or watercolor and brush
- Kerosene lamp
- Making a stencil. The bird pattern shown below is simple. Draw it on a newsprint and cut it out along the pencil line.
- Smoking a template. Dampen a sheet of paper of the stencil size, and press it firm to the stencil. Hold the laminate with stencil side facing down over a kerosene lamp. The laminate is blackened by the soot. Peel away the stencil when the laminate is thoroughly dry. The uncovered areas are clearly defined.
- Paper dying. The common paper for paper cut is red rice paper, as red is thought to be the color of good luck. On a waterproof table brush red dye over a sheet of white paper with a large, soft brush. Be sure to leave one edge dry. Place another sheet of paper over the wet sheet and do the same. Repeat until there are about ten sheets of papers in the stack. Glue each paper to a dowel at the dry edge to dry.
- Cutting. Place the template on top of a stack of, as many as twenty, colored rice paper and sew them together. The scissors come with large oval handles and short and sharp blades. Cut inner lines and then the contour. Move the scissors with a continuous sweep, making sure that the blades go through the entire stack. Great skill is necessary to do this well.