Blessings under the sissors

WELL DONE everyone with the ShuangXi today! I found some interesting articles about Chinese paper cutting art, enjoy!

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The paper-cut is one of China’s most popular and characteristic folk arts. It takes paper as the material and scissors or engraving knives as the tool. The tradition can be traced back to the 6th century. However, it probably emerged even a few centuries earlier.

In Chinese culture paper-cuts symbolize the idea of blessedness, luck and fortune. In the past, paper-cuts were sometimes used for religious purpose, serving as decorations for sacrificial offerings to the ancestors and gods. Nowadays most Chinese families use them as window decorations for entrance gates, windows, walls, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns.

During some important festivals, such as China’s traditional Spring Festival, it is very significant to paste some paper-cuts on entrance gates. They are supposed to bring good luck for the family. Besides, paper-cuts are also used for decoration on presents or are given as presents. Some paper-cuts are specially made into embroidery base patterns used in decorating clothes and lacquer work.

The paper-cut art has been widely spread and of a long history. It has exerted an influence on decorative patterns, shadow plays, printed cloth, embroidery and paintings. Folk paper-cuts outline the natural forms by way of employing characters, symbol and implication to constitute beautiful patterns. As a form of folk art, it occupies a significant position in the folk activities, with quite a few popular forms as follows:

Window paper-cutting

Window paper-cutting, or window flowers, refers to the type of paper-cutting works pasted on windows as an ornament. In North China, farmers’ houses are mostly windowed with wooden squares. It is commonly seen that a layer of white leather paper is pasted on the vertical squares, rectangular squares or geometrically patterned squares. In case of some important holidays, such as Spring Festival, instead of the old leather paper, new paper-cutting work is pasted as a symbol of bidding farewell to the outgoing year and ushering the New Year in. The fauna and flora, figurines as well as a series of theatrical tales can all become the themes of the window paper-cuts.

Gate label

It is a type of paper-cutting works that hang on the gate sills. It is also called “hanging label”, “hanging money”. It is in the form of flag with big head, double size and lower part as tassel. It is engraved on red paper or multi-colored paper, with geometrical patterns. Embedded with figures, flowers, phoenix, dragons and the other propitious characters, the gate label must be hung in series when hung up.

Festival paper-cutting

It is used to decorate the household appliances and indoor furniture, such as teapot, soapbox, basin, and dressing mirror. It takes the form of circle, rectangle, peach, pomegranate and other propitious patterns. The auspicious themes and red color imply happiness.

Gift paper-cutting

Gift paper-cut is attached to cakes, birthday noodles and eggs. In Shandong Province, people attach it onto the “happy egg” to celebrate a baby’s birth. Tortoise-patterned paper cuts symbolic of longevity are commonly seen in the countryside of Fujian Province.

Paper-cutting flower bundle

This kind of paper cutting has a layout pattern. It takes a form of a circle-shaped flower with two or four even sizes. The paper can be folded up and cut into a flower bundle in two or four even sides. This pattern has its great merit in decoration.


The origin of this thousand-year-old custom is said to come from an ancient tale: there used to be a sun in the sky giving people light and warmth until one day, a hug golden raven ate it and spit out 9 suns which started to burn the earth. A man named  Houyi bravely took the mission to shoot off the raven and gave the people on earth a bit breeze, he then took the heart of the raven to make a new sun which still shines today. It is the new year’s day when people have sunrise again, so they celebrated by putting red, roundish papercut on windows and walls which symbolize the sun 🙂


China’s image abroad : first meeting

The Chinese New Year was just last week, which I had the chance to experience. I was invited to celebrate the dragon year by two people from Tiajin, in the Beijing Suburb. Xinyu Zhang, a Chinese exchange student, Di Wang, who was born in Beijing but lived in the US for 17 years, and other Chinese students had a celebration where we made and ate dumplings! It is always a good opportunity to promote the country, bring together western and Chinese culture, meet people from the “Middle Empire”, and discover more about the most populous country of the world, its traditions, and what it means to be Chinese today!

Since the opening of the country after Mao’s reign, China has impressively developed itself in many ways in only thirty years. This “new” China is good for people who want to travel. Western tourists can discover this powerful country and its historical culture! The “new” China is also a good thing for Chinese students, who want to study abroad! When I’ve asked Chinese students if they want to stay and live outside China, they reply that they are just here to acquire some experience, improved their English, and bring back home new knowledge and skills. They’re not tempted to stay far away from their family and their traditions.

The first thought for many people, including myself, about the Chinese living in a western country is that they are always together and don’t really want to integrate. We can see this in many cities like Paris, London, and New York since there is always a Chinese area (most often called “Chinatown”). This is actually a quick judgment, as Di has said to me that a lot of Chinese people try to stay together because of the culture shock and the importance of their traditions. It is also hard for them to learn a completely different language.

Chinese people are really proud and respectful about what their ancestors have left them. Spirits are very active in the Chinese culture and it’s an honour for them to keep a strong link with the family. One thing I have discovered when I’ve met Chinese students for the Spring Festival is that they are reserved people. They are always happy to share and teach you about their culture, food, and history. The Chinese students also enjoy learning about our lifestyle and what we think about them and their food! XinYu had given me some “art paper” with the prosperity symbol. I learned that if you put the symbol upside down on your door that doesn’t only mean “prosperity” but that “prosperity is arriving to you”. I carefully put the sign on my door and crossed my fingers…

In thirty years, China has opened its frontiers to globalization in the way that we can find many restaurants and shops where imported Chinese items are sold. Most of those shops are owned by Chinese who are living abroad, so globalization is a good way for food to travel and let western people discover it!  One of the bad parts of that globalization is that some people, without any knowledge of Asian food, try to open a “Chinese style take away” place and give a bad reputation to Asian cooking! Di and XinYu have told me there is a few Chinese restaurants in Dundee whose quality and taste do not compare with the traditional Chinese recipes.

Chinese people who can travel and study abroad are only from the big cities and the upper class. They are really impressed with the European lifestyle which seems to be more peaceful, calm, and quiet, even in big places like London and New York. They all describe Chinese cities to be very busy, noisy, stressful and sometimes messy! When I ask the Chinese about the very different lifestyles in China, they are all unanimous in saying: “If you travel in China, you can’t ignore the countryside! You can’t discover China only through Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong! China is more than big busy cities and you can find everything you want.”

Last Train Home

Lixin Fan’s extraordinary and visually stunning film, showing in the True Stories strand, charts one family’s involvement in the world’s largest planned mass migration.

Every year in the days leading up to the Chinese New Year, the train and bus stations of China’s booming cities are besieged by millions of migrant workers seeking to return to the villages and families they left behind in search of a better life.

One such family are Suquin Chen and Changhua Zhang, who left their village 16 years ago, consoled by the knowledge that their wages would offer their children a better life. But their daughter Qin, feeling abandoned, has quit school and herself become a migrant worker. Last Train Home follows the Zhang’s journey home through the massed crowds and their attempts to change Qin’s mind and repair their ruptured family. Includes reference to family tension.

Watch on Channel 4 on Demand Here